A. Roger Ekirch

A. Roger Ekirch

A. Roger Ekirch

University Distinguished Professor


437 Major Williams Hall
220 Stanger Street
Blacksburg, VA 24061




Department Membership



  • Early American History
  • Atlantic History
  • History of Sleep and Sleep Disorders, Night

Professional Activities

  • Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture
  • Reviewer of manuscripts for commercial and university presses
  • Reviewer of grant proposals for the National Endowment for the Humanities and Wellcome Trust
  • Editorial Boards, Sleep Health: The Journal of the National Sleep Foundation and Clocks & Sleep


  • Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1978
  • M.A., Johns Hopkins University, 1974
  • A.B., Dartmouth College, Highest Distinction in History, Rufus Choate Scholar, 1972

Research Interests

    Awards and Honors

    Fellow, Society of American Historians, elected 2019

    Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Scholarship, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, 2015, 2009                

    National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, 2013-14, 1992-93, 1986-87, 1982-83                                                                   

    Alumni Award for Research Excellence, 2009                                                                            

    John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow, 1998                                                 

    Paul Mellon Research Fellow, Faculty of History, Cambridge University, 1981-82

    Selected Publications


    American Sanctuary: Mutiny, Martyrdom, and National Identity in the Age of Revolution. New York: Pantheon, 2017.

    Birthright: The True Story that Inspired “Kidnapped.” New York: W.W. Norton, 2010.

    At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past. New York: W.W. Norton, 2005. Translations in German, Dutch, Slovenian, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean; Phi Alpha Theta National History Honor Society Prize (“Best subsequent book”), 2007; Phi Beta Kappa Sturm Award for Excellence in Faculty Research, Virginia Tech, 2006; Library of Virginia Literary Award in Nonfiction, 2006; Charles Smith Book Award, Southern Historical Association, European Section, 2006; Observer Book of the Year, 2005; Longman History Today Best Title, 2005; Amazon Editors’ #3 History Book of the Year, 2005; Discover Magazine Science Book of the Year, 2005; #1 Pick, “Ian Marchant’s Top Ten Books of the Night,” The Guardian, Jan. 25, 2012


    “What Sleep Research Can Learn From History,” Sleep Health: The Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, IV, no.6 (December 2018), 515-18.

    “Sleep: Historical and Cultural Perspectives,” in Francesco Cappuccio, MD, Michelle Miller, MD, and Steven Lockley, eds., Sleep, Health and Society, Second Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 163-170

    “Segmented Sleep in Preindustrial Societies,” Sleep, 36, no. 3 (March 2016), 715-716

    “The Modernization of Western Sleep: Or, Does Insomnia Have a History?,”  Past & Present, 226 (February 2015), 149-192

    “La casa de un hombre es su castillo: fortificaciones domésticas,” Bitácora Arquitectura, 27 (August 2014), 120-128.

    With John Shneerson, M.D., “Nineteenth-Century Sleep Violence Cases,” Sleep Medicine Clinics, 6 (December 2011), 483-491.

    "Sleep We Have Lost: Pre-industrial Slumber in the British Isles," American Historical Review, 105 (April 2001), 343-387

    Additional Information

    Besides his scholarly publications, Professor Ekirch’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, Guardian, Harper’s Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, Huffington Post, the International Herald Tribune, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  He is a frequent book reviewer for the Wall Street Journal and has been interviewed on the BBC, CBC, “Morning Edition,” “Talk of the Nation,” “On Point,” “Weekend Edition,” and “Saturday Afternoon at the Opera,” as well as on “Book TV,” “The History Channel,” PBS’s “Points of View,” Canadian Public Television, and the BBC's "One Show." Invited to give a lecture on the “Anthropology of Sleep,” he is a current participant in Oxford University’s online MSc program in sleep medicine. For more information, visit Professor Ekirch’s professional website.