The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America | Wilson Center
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The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America

Why and when did arguments about privacy become central to American public life?  Our current debates about privacy first emerged more than a century ago, as developments in industry, state administration, journalism, and technology led many to question the shifting boundary between citizens and their society.  Drawing from her new book, Sarah Igo will chart a path from concerns about “instantaneous photography” in the late nineteenth century all the way to our present dilemmas around social media and big data.   

Sarah E. Igo (B.A., Harvard; Ph.D., Princeton) is Professor of History and Law and Director of American Studies at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of the award-winning The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public, which was an Editor’s Choice selection of the New York Times and one of Slate’s Best Books of 2007.  Her latest book, The Known Citizen, has been widely reviewed and was one of the Washington Post's “Notable Non-Fiction Books of 2018.”  

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks the Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest and the George Washington University History Department for their support.



  • Christian F. Ostermann

    Director, History and Public Policy Program; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
    Woodrow Wilson Center
  • Eric Arnesen

    Professor of History, The George Washington University


  • Sarah Igo

    Professor of History and Law and Director of American Studies, Vanderbilt University