Sophia Rosenfeld

Sophia Rosenfeld

Department Chair, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History

European and American Intellectual and Cultural History since 1650; Age of Revolutions (esp. France); History of Democracy; Historical Methods


College Hall 307


Sophia Rosenfeld is Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches European and American intellectual and cultural history with a special emphasis on the Enlightenment, the trans-Atlantic Age of Revolutions, and the legacy of the eighteenth century for modern democracy.  She is the author of A Revolution in Language: The Problem of Signs in Late Eighteenth-Century France (Stanford, 2001); Common Sense: A Political History (Harvard, 2011), which won the Mark Lynton History Prize and the Society for the History of the Early American Republic Book Prize; and Democracy and Truth: A Short History (Penn Press, 2019).  Her articles and essays have appeared in leading scholarly journals, including the American Historical Review, the Journal of Modern HistoryFrench Historical Studies, and the William and Mary Quarterly, as well as such outlets as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and, frequently, The Nation.  From 2013 to 2017, she co-edited the journal Modern Intellectual History.  In 2022, A Cultural History of Ideas, a 6 volume book series covering antiquity to the present for which she was co-general editor with Peter Struck (Penn, Classical Studies), appeared with Bloomsbury and won the Association of American Publishers’ award for best reference work in the humanities.  Her writing has been or is being translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Korean, and Chinese. 

Her newest book, to be published by Princeton University Press in February 2025, is entitled The Age of Choice: A History of Freedom in Modern Life. It explores how, between the 17th century and the present, the idea and practice of making choices from menus of options came to shape so many aspects of our existences, from consumer culture to human rights, and with what consequences. Among her other ongoing interests are the history of free speech, dissent, and censorship; the history of aesthetics, including dance; the history of political language; contemporary political theory and feminist theory; the history of epistemology; the history of information and misinformation; the history of the emotions and senses; and experimental historical methods. 

Rosenfeld received her B.A. from Princeton University and her Ph.D. from Harvard University. She has held fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, the Mellon Foundation, both the Remarque Institute and the Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU, and the American Council of Learned Societies, as well as visiting professorships at the University of Virginia School of Law and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris). Prior to arriving at Penn in January 2017, she was Professor of History at Yale University and, before that, the University of Virginia. She also served a three-year term from 2018 to 2021 as Vice President, in charge of the Research Division, of the American Historical Association.  In 2022, she held the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the North at the Library of Congress, and she was also named by the French government "Officier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques."

Office Hours
Tuesdays, 1:30-4:30 and by appointment

Ph.D. Harvard University, 1996

M.A. Harvard University, 1990 

A.B. Princeton University, 1988

CV (file)