George Chauncey

George Chauncey's picture
Samuel Knight Professor of History & American Studies; DGS, American Studies
HGS 300E
Field(s) of interest: 
U.S.: 20th century US social, cultural, and urban history; Lesbian & gay history; History of gender & sexuality

George Chauncey joined the department in the fall of 2006 as professor in the fields of twentieth-century US history and lesbian and gay history.  He received his doctorate in history from Yale in 1989 and then taught for fifteen years at the University of Chicago, as well as for shorter stints at Rutgers, New York University, and the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.  In 2012 he was awarded the Sidonie Miskimin Clauss Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities. He is co-director of the Yale Research Initiative on the History of Sexualities and has served as the chair of the History Department, chair of  LGBT Studies, and Director of Graduate Studies and Undergraduate Studies for American Studies

Professor Chauncey is best known for his book Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 (Basic, 1994), which won the Organization of American Historians’ Merle Curti Prize for the best book in social history and Frederick Jackson Turner Prize for the best first book in any field of history, as well as the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and Lambda Literary Award. He has also published Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today’s Debate over Gay Equality (Basic, 2004) and co-edited three books and special journal issues. He is currently completing another book, The Strange Career of the Closet: Race, The City, and Gay Culture and Politics from the Second World War to the Gay Liberation Era.

Since 1993, Chauncey has participated as a historian in more than twenty-five gay rights cases, including five that reached the Supreme Court.  He organized and was lead author of the Historians’ Amicus Brief in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which the Court cited in its decision overturning the nation’s remaining sodomy laws and the New York Times then excerpted under the headline “Educating the Court: In Changing the Law of the Land, Six Justices Turned to its History.”  He also testified as an expert witness on the history of antigay discrimination in Romer v. Evans (1996) and the two same-sex marriage cases decided in 2013: Hollingsworth v. Perry, which invalidated California’s Prop 8 and restored the right to marry to that state’s gay couples, and  Windsor v. United States, which struck down the core of the Defense of Marriage Act; the Times published his op-ed on “The Long Road to Marriage Equality” on the day the latter decisions were announced.  Two years later he prepared the amicus brief on the history of antigay discrimination submitted by the Organization of American Historians, which the Supreme Court cited in its opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that established the right of same-sex couples to marry nationwide.  He has also served as historical consultant to several major public history projects, including exhibitions and lecture series at the New York Public Library, Chicago History Museum, and New-York Historical Society, and several documentary films.  He is the recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Humanities Center, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, and the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.