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 faculty in French, History, and Biography and Memoir at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she is currently the coordinator of the Medieval Studies Certificate Program. The main focus of her research is on women and crime in medieval France. She specializes in legal history and has broad interests in the pre-modern world, especially topics related to gender, marriage, sex, and law. 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

Reform Leadership Council, Vera Institute of Justice.

Board of Directors, Libraries Without Borders USA.

Board, Association of Members of the Institute for Advanced Study (AMIAS) Princeton, New Jersey.


Course Taught

Famous Trials

Women's Stories in Premodern French

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, 2017).
Bigamy and Christian Identity in Late-Medieval Champagne (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012). 
Editorial Projects: 
with Felicity Turner, Law & History Review Forum: "Rethinking the Criminalization of Childbirth: Infanticide in Premodern Europe and the Modern Americas," 39:2 (forthcoming, May 2021).
with the late Clive Emsley, A Global History of Crime and Punishment, 6 volumes. Bloomsbury Press (forthcoming, 2021).
with Sarah Pearsall, Gender & History Special Issue: Marriage's Global Past (November 2017).
with Thomas Barton, Susan McDonough, and Matthew Wranovix, Boundaries in the Medieval and Wider World. Festschrift in Honour of Paul Freedman, Europa Sacra 22 (Brepols, 2017).  
with John Witte and Anna di Robilant, Texts and Contexts in Legal History: Essays in Honor of Charles Donahue, Robbins Collection, UC Berkeley (October 2016).
Journal Articles and Book Chapters:
"Singlewomen and Illicit Pregnancy in Late Medieval France: The Case of Marie Ribou (1481)" 
French Historical Studies, 44:3 (August 2021).
"Pardoning Infanticide in Late Medieval France," Law & History Review 39:2 (May 2021). 
"The Chivalric Family" in Knighthood and Society in the High Middle Ages, eds. David Crouch and Jeroen Deploige, (Leuven University Press, 2020).
"Bastard Priests: Illegitimacy and Ordination in Medieval Europe," Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies 94/1 (January 2019).
with Sarah Pearsall, "Marriage's Global Past: Introduction," in Gender & History Special Issue: Marriage's Global Past (November 2017).
"The Monk-King and the Abbess-Countess: Dynastic Lineage in Twelfth Century Aragon and Boulogne" in Boundaries in the Medieval and Wider World. Festschrift in Honour of Paul Freedman, Europa Sacra 22 (Brepols, 2017).  
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 eds. Véronique Beaulande-Barraud and Martine Charageat, (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).
 “The Punishment of Bigamy in Late-Medieval France,” Imago Temporis Acti. Medium Aevum 3 (2009). 
 “The Prosecution of Sex in Late Medieval Troyes,” in History of Sexuality in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed. Albrecht Classen (De Gruyter: 2008).

Co-Founder and Project Editor, Middle Ages For Educators 



Honors and Awards

Astor Visiting Lectureship, Oxford University, June 2022?
Visiting Professor in legal history, Université Paris II Panthéon-Assas, January 2022
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 biography of a runaway wife and priest's concubine in late medieval Dijon, a study of the consequences of extramarital pregnancy in Northern France, infanticide prosecutions and pardons in Medieval France, and an investigation of adultery across gender and hierarchical divides in fifteenth century France. 
  • Forthcoming Publications:
    “Canon Law and Marriage,” in the Cambridge History of Medieval Canon Law, eds. Anders  Winroth and John Wei (CUP, expected publication 2021). 
    “Adultery,” “Canon Law, Gender in,” Routledge Medieval Encyclopedia Online, eds. Wim  Blockmans and Régine Le Jan (2021).  


Area of Expertise

Most requested topics by media

Sexual Violence / Intimate Partner Violence
Women / Gender Justice

Faculty Expertise: topics/keywords

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

In The Media



Society for the History of Children and Youth featured book: Royal Bastards, interview with Prof. Miriam Shadis,



Selected Public Writing/Media:
New York Times, "Catholic Bishops Agree: Anything But a Woman." 
The Washington Post, "When the Catholic Church’s prohibition on scandal helped women."
Perspectives: the newsmagazine of the American Historical Association, with Brian Connolly and Hans Hummer, "WEIRD Science: Incest and History." 
Ms. Magazine online, with Felicity Turner: "Qatar and Us: The Violation of Women’s Bodies Has a Long History Among Western Nations."