Sara McDougall

Sara McDougall

Associate Professor, John Jay College and the CUNY Graduate Center
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2009-2010 -  Gotlieb Fellow in Legal History, NYU School of Law

2009          -   PhD Yale University

2003           -  BA/MA Boston University


Sara McDougall is an associate professor of history at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York (CUNY) and a member of the doctoral faculty in French and History at the CUNY Graduate Center where she is currently the coordinator of the Medieval Studies Certificate Program. She specializes in medieval legal history and has broad interests in the pre-modern world, especially gender and crime. She is the author of Bigamy and Christian Identity in Late Medieval Champagne (UPenn, 2012), and Royal Bastards: The Birth of Illegitimacy, 800-1230 (OUP, 2017). 



Professional Memberships



Course Taught

Interdisciplinary Topics in Law: Mothers in Law 

Sex and Single Mothers in Medieval France

Female Felons in the Pre-modern World

Justice in the Western Legal Tradition

Justice in the Non-Western Legal Traditions

Global History 500-1500

History of Gender and Sexuality to 1650

Introduction to Medieval Studies

Punishment in the Premodern World

Bastards and Thrones in Medieval Europe

Immigrant Justice 






Scholarly Work

Royal Bastards: the birth of illegitimacy, 800-1230 (Oxford University Press, Oxford Studies in Medieval European History, January 2017).

Bigamy and Christian Identity in Late-Medieval Champagne (University of Pennsylvania Press, March 2012). 

Co-editor with Felicity Turner, Forum: Rethinking the Criminalization of Childbirth: Infanticide in Premodern Europe and the Modern Americas, Law and History Review 

General Co-Editor with Clive Emsley, A Global History of Crime and Punishment, 6 volumes. Bloomsbury Press (forthcoming, 2020).

Co-Editor with Sarah Pearsall, Gender & History Special Issue: Marriage's Global Past (November 2017).

"Bastard Priests: Illegitimacy and Ordination in Medieval Europe," Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies94/1 (January 2019).

with Charles Donahue, Jr. “France and Adjoining Areas,” in History of Courts and Procedure in Medieval Canon Law eds. Kenneth Pennington and Wilfried Hartmann (Catholic University Press, November 2016).

“Enclosure as Punishment for Adultery,” in Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Congress of Medieval Canon Law, Toronto 3-9 August 2012, eds. Joseph Goering, Stephan Dusil, and Andreas Thier, Monumenta Iuris Canonici, Series C: Subsidia (Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 2016).

“À la recherche des enfants illégitimes dans les archives de l’officialité de Troyes au xve siècle. Un exemple atypique?” in Bâtards et bâtardises dans l’Europe médiévale et moderne, ed. Carole Avignon (Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2016).

“Fiction and Lies: Adultery and Spousal Homicide Accusations in Fifteenth Century France" in Imagining Early Modern Histories, eds. Allison Kavey and Elizabeth Ketner (Ashgate, 2016).

“The Transformation of Adultery in France at the End of the Middle Ages” Law and History Review 32:3 (August 2014)

“The Opposite of the Double Standard: Gender, Marriage, and Adultery Prosecution in Late Medieval France” Journal of the History of Sexuality 23:2 (May 2014).  

“Women Before the Officiality of Troyes in the Fifteenth Century” in Les officialités dans l'Europe médiévale et moderne: Des tribunaux pour une société chrétienne (Brepols, 2014). 

 “The Making of Marriage in Medieval Europe” Journal of Family History 38:3 (July 2013). 

 “Women and Gender in Medieval Canon Law” in the Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe, eds. Ruth Karras and Judith Bennett. (July 2013). 

 “Bigamy: A Male Crime in Medieval Europe” Gender and History 22:2 (August 2010).



Honors and Awards

Visiting Professor in legal history, Université Paris II Panthéon-Assas, November 2020.  
Norman Freehling Visiting Professor, University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities, spring 2020.  
Mellon Fellow, Member, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton NJ. 2014-2015.
Golieb Fellow in Legal History at New York University School of Law, 2009-2010.
Distinguished CUNY Fellow, Advanced Research Collaborative, The Graduate School of the City University of New York, spring 2017. 

Research Summary

  • Current projects include a study of illicit pregnancy in Northern France, infanticide prosecutions and pardons in Medieval France, and an investigation of adultery and its consequences across gender and hierarchical divides in fifteenth century France. 
  • forthcoming:
  • "Singlewomen and Illicit Pregnancy in Late Medieval France: The Case of Marie Ribou (1481)" French Historical Studies, accepted for publication in May 2020).
  • "The Chivalric Family" in Knighthood and Society in the High Middle Ages, eds. David Crouch and Jeroen Deploige, (Leuven University Press, 2020).
  • “Canon Law and Marriage,” in the Cambridge History of Medieval Canon Law, eds. Anders Winroth and John Wei (under contract with CUP, expected publication 2020).
  • “Adultery,” “Canon Law, Gender in,” Routledge Medieval Encyclopedia Online, eds. Wim Blockmans and Régine Le Jan (2020). 


Area of Expertise

Most requested topics by media

Women / Gender Justice

Faculty Expertise: topics/keywords

Legal history, family history, history of the Catholic Church, sexuality and gender. 

In The Media



NYTimes opinion piece "Catholic Bishops Agree: Anything but a Woman"

Professor McDougall's article for the Washington Post:

A review of Professor McDougall's Royal Bastards in the Times Literary Supplement:

Perspectives WEIRD Science

Digital Humanities Project: with Merle Eisenberg and Laura Morreale: