Nathan Perl-Rosenthal

Professor of History, Spatial Sciences, French and Italian and Law
Nathan Perl-Rosenthal
Email Office SOS 167 Office Phone (646) 675-6073


Nathan Perl-Rosenthal is an historian of the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Atlantic world.  He focuses on the political and cultural history of Europe and the Americas in the age of revolution, with particular attention to the transnational influences that shaped modern national politics.  He received his PhD in history from Columbia University in 2011, with a dissertation on epistolarity and revolutionary organizing, and published a first book on a different topic in 2015: Citizen Sailors: Becoming American in the Age of Revolution(Belknap/Harvard).  That book, which argues that American sailors of the revolutionary era had an unknown and significant role in the formation of modern practices of national identification, won the Society for French Historical Studies’ Gilbert Chinard Prize, for “a distinguished scholarly book published in North America in the history of themes shared by France and North, Central, or South America.”

His second book, The Age of Revolutions and the Generations Who Made It, will be published by Basic Books in early 2024.  It is the first narrative history of the entire Atlantic revolutionary era, 1765 to 1825, to be based on primary sources.  The book tells the story of the era’s interconnected revolutions, beginning in North America and continuing through Peru, France, the Netherlands, Italy, the Caribbean, and many other locations.  The narrative melds biography, cultural history, and social history to reveal how two distinct generations of revolutionaries lay the foundations for modern politics.  The first generation, whose worldviews were shaped by the status-bound world of the late old regime, struggled to overcome their hierarchical impulses and had tremendous difficulty forging sustained large-scale movements.  The second generation, formed during the turbulent early revolutionary decades and rising to power around 1800, proved better able to organize mass movements, but often relied on illiberal or authoritarian means.  By centering the struggle between revolutionaries’ beliefs and their political practices, The Age of Revolutions sheds new light on the great democratic-republican experiment of the past two centuries and why it has so often fallen short of its promise.

Nathan Perl-Rosenthal has additional research interests in intellectual and socio-legal history of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Recent and forthcoming publications on these topics include a study of a multi-million dollar piracy prosecution in 1780s Mauritius, the functioning of prize courts, and the invention of the jus solijus sanguinis binary in nineteenth-century nationality law.  His essays and reviews have appeared in a number of other journals, including the William and Mary Quarterly, the American Historical Review, and the Journal of the Early Republic.


  • Ph.D. Columbia University, 5/2011
  • A.B. Harvard University, 6/2004
    • Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities, University of Southern California, 2011-2012
  • Journal Article

    • Perl-Rosenthal, N. (2018). On Mobile Legal Spaces and Maritime Empires: The Pillage of the East Indiaman Osterley (1779). Itinerario/Cambridge University Press. Vol. 42 (22018/09/12), pp. 183-201.
    • Perl-Rosenthal, N. (2017). Atlantic Cultures and the Age of Revolution. The William and Mary Quarterly. Vol. 74 (4), pp. 667-696.
    • Perl-Rosenthal, N., Evan, H. (2012). Transnational Connections: Special Issue Introduction. Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Vol. 10 (2), pp. 227-238.
    • Perl-Rosenthal, N. (2012). Comment: Generational Turns. The American Historical Review. Vol. 117 (3), pp. 804-813.
    • Perl-Rosenthal, N. (2011). Private Letters and Public Diplomacy: The Adams Network and the Quasi-War, 1797-1798. Journal of the Early Republic. Vol. 31 (2), pp. 283-311.
    • Perl-Rosenthal, N. (2009). The ‘divine right of republics’: Hebraic Republicanism and the Debate over Kingless Government in Revolutionary America. William and Mary Quarterly. Vol. 66 (3), pp. 535-564.


    • Perl-Rosenthal, N. (2020). Reading Cargoes: Letters and the Problem of Nationality in the Age of Privateering. A World at Sea: Maritime Practices and Global HistoryUniversity of Pennsylvania Press.
    • Benton, L., Perl-Rosenthal, N. (2020). A World at Sea: Maritime Practices and Global History. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Office Hours

      Tuesday : 11:30-12:30
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