Clare Lyons is an Early American social and cultural historian, who specializes in the history of sexuality, gender, and women. Her research and teaching interests span colonial, revolutionary, and nineteenth-century U.S history, comparative and trans-regional colonial histories, the global history of the Anglo-early-modern world, and the history of sexuality in the United States from the colonial era to today.
Professor Lyons earned her Ph.D. with distinction from Yale University in 1996 and received Yale’s Egleston Prize for the best dissertation in American History in 1996-1997. Her scholarship has centered on revealing how seemingly “natural” hierarchical social systems were constituted and transformed, and how they operated to deploy and mask power. Her first book explored the transition from early modern to modern society when enlightenment philosophies denaturalized existing social and political hierarchies, and gender gained new saliency to legitimate inequality. Sex Among the Rabble: An Intimate History of Gender and Power in the Age of Revolution, Philadelphia 1730-1830 was published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture (2006) and awarded the James Broussard Best First Book Prize by the Society for Historians of the Early Republic. She is author of “Mapping an Atlantic Sexual Culture: Homoeroticism in Eighteenth Century Philadelphia,” which won the Lester A. Cappon Award for best article in William and Mary Quarterly in 2003. “Mapping” analyzed the evidence of homoerotic experiences of eighteenth-century Philadelphians through an Atlantic cultural lens revealing transatlantic cultural connections, yet distinctly American understandings of homoeroticism.
Professor Lyons’ recent publications include, “Discipline, Sex, and the Republican Self,” in the Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution (2013), that explored the relationship of the emergence of sexual subjectivities in the late-eighteenth-century United States to political empowerment in the era of the American Revolution; and "Cities at Sea: Gender & Sexuality in the Eighteenth-Century British Colonial City, Philadelphia, Kingston, Madras & Calcutta, in the Routledge History Handbook of Gender and the Urban Experience (2017), which presented a comparative analysis of urban sexual cultures in key cities in the principal eighteenth-century British colonial ventures: settler societies of British North America (Philadelphia); slave societies of the British West Indies (Kingston); and British mercantile communities in the East Indies (Madras & Calcutta).
She has just completed a year long public history project, funded by the Pew foundation, in collaboration with The Woodlands (a non-profit historic landmakr & interpretive center) to research the sexual identities, and entwined histories of the occupants of the eighteenth-century Woodlands mansion: white gentleman bachelor William Hamilton and the Hilton family, African-American members of the household.
Her current book project is a global history of sexuality, entitled Sex in the Eighteen-Century Anglo-Oceanic World: Global Transit, Enslaving Sexualty & Inventing the Sexual Self. It investigates how global geographic mobility and cross-cultural colonial encounters gave rise to new notions about human sexuality and the self.
Professor Lyons has held fellowships and grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, the Pew Program in Religion and American History, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Library Company of Philadelphia. She chaired the James A. Rawley Book Prize for the Organization of American Historians and the Ralph D. Gray Article Prize for the Journal of the Early Republic, and currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of American History.