Sarah Keyes

Sarah Keyes, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Sarah Keyes


Sarah Keyes is a historian of the United States. She specializes in the history of the U.S. West with a focus on the environment and intercultural interactions between Native and Euro-Americans. Her current work explores these topics along the overland trails to Oregon and California in the mid-nineteenth century. The working title of her book manuscript (based on her doctoral dissertation) is, "Death's Purchase: The Overland Trail and the Making of Transcontinental America." She has published in the Journal of American History and will soon publish in the Western Historical Quarterly and the Oregon Historical Quarterly.

Keyes was previously an assistant professor of history at Texas Tech University. Her research has been supported by a number of institutions including the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), The Newberry and Huntington Libraries, the Mellon Foundation and the American Antiquarian Society. Most recently, she received a research fellowship from the Humanities Center at Texas Tech University.

Keyes plans to offer a variety of undergraduate and graduate classes that focus on the history of the United States West, the environment and Native Americans. In addition to these topics, she is also interested in gender, migration, the senses, memory and spatial history.

Keyes will be the graduate mentor for the recipient of the department’s prestigious Senator Harry Reid Doctoral Fellowship to be awarded in 2020-21.

Research Specialties

  • 19th-Century U.S. History
  • U.S. West
  • Environmental History


  • "Western Adventurers and Male Nurses: Indians, Cholera, and Masculinity in Overland Trail Narratives," The Western Historical Quarterly, (Spring 2018).
  • "'Like a Roaring Lion': The Overland Trail as a Sonic Conquest," Journal of American History (June 2009): 19-43.


  • Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2012
  • B.A., Pomona College, 2004