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 notions of nationality, 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 project is The Age of Revolution: A Cultural History, ca. 1760-1820. It aims to reimagine the age of revolution as both an analytic category and an historical phenomenon by thinking about how the individual revolutionary movements were united by shared cultural practices rather than by common political structures or ideology. Forms of cultural practice that had become widely shared around the Atlantic in the eighteenth century—especially letter-writing, formal rhetoric, and face-to-face sociability—became essential tools for political organizing in the revolutionary Atlantic. Patriots’ use of these common instruments put a shared stamp on revolutionary politics across borders and made their political projects more easily comprehensible to one another. Yet the reliance on shared pre-revolutionary culture had costs as well: patriots found themselves and their political prospects deeply bound up in the social rules and conventions of the old regime. Taking in Europe and the Americas, as well as European colonies elsewhere around the globe, the book aims to reinterpret the period’s political revolutions through the lens of culture in order to rethink the era’s celebrated role in the formation of modern politics.
Nathan Perl-Rosenthal is also currently developing articles on topics in the socio-legal history of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These include a study of a multi-million dollar piracy prosecution in 1780s Mauritius and (with Sam Erman) an examination of the sudden emergence of the jus soli–jus sanguinis binary in modern nationality law. His others essays and reviews have appeared in a number of journals, including the William and Mary Quarterly, the American Historical Review, and the Journal of the Early Republic.