Associate Director


Sarah Handley-Cousins

Sarah Handley-Cousins is associate director of the Center for Disability Studies and clinical assistant professor of history at the University at Buffalo. Handley-Cousins is the author of Bodies in Blue: Disability in the Civil War North, published in the Uncivil Wars series by the University of Georgia in 2019. She is also the author of an article, "Wrestling at the Gates of Death: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Nonvisible Disability in the Civil War North," published in 2016 in the Journal of the Civil War Era, which was awared an Honorable Mention for the Disability History Association Best Journal Article of Book Chapter prize for 2017. Handley-Cousins has also written two book chapters. "Best Men, Broken Men: Gender, Disability, and War" appeared in Kara Dixon Vuic's Routledge Handbook on Gender, War, and U.S. Military in 2017, and "Speaking for Themselves: Disabled Veterans and Civil War Medical Photography," in Enduring War: New Perspectives on Civil War Veteranhood, edited by Brian Matthew Jordan was published by Lousiana University Press in 2020. She is currently working on a project on the intersections between disability, criminality, and veteranhood in late nineteenth century America. 

In addition to teaching and scholarship, Handley-Cousins is also active in the world of digital public history. In 2015, she became an editor of the pathbreaking history blog, Nursing Clio, which publishes essays that deal broadly with issues of health, disability, and gender. Handley-Cousins wrote one of the site's most widely read pieces, on the phenomenon of "haunted asylums." In 2017, Handley-Cousins helped to found DIG: A History Podcast, which translates historical scholarship into a compelling audio format. She has also written pieces published in the New York Times and Washington Post. 

You can find more about Dr. Handley-Cousins's work on her personal website

Reviews of Bodies in Blue

"In this deeply researched and theoretically sophisticated book, Sarah Handley-Cousins tells a much more complex story of the illnesses and injuries that Civil War soldiers and veterans endured. . . . This is a story about how individuals and institutions battled over how bodies should be defined and categorized and treated by the state. This is a very important book." - Matthew Gallman 

"As one of the first works to bridge the gap between Civil War history and disability studies, Bodies in Blue deepens scholars' understanding of health and medicine during the conflict. Approaching disability as a social construct rather than a medical condition, Handley-Cousins challenges recent works that highlight the medical knowledge gained during the war by questioning the cost of that knowledge." - Lindsay Rae Privette, Journal of Southern History 

"Handley-Cousins’s main contribution is the framing she uses in discussing veterans of the Civil War. She is respectful of the historic specificity of these men and their experiences, but she is also quite adept at reminding us that the issues faced by these invisibly wounded are still pertinent today. Wounds remain invisible because of social pressures on individuals to meet our expectations of gender. This was true in the Civil War era and remains true today, regardless of how a person was wounded or who they are. Future research on disability as it relates to combat veterans can benefit a lot from the methodology of this book." - John R. Casey, H-Net 

"Bodies in Blue is a well-written view into the lasting effects of war. Handley-Cousins uses disability studies as a framework and skillfully weaves the military and medical stories together with masculinity, social and cultural expectations, and the real experience of soldiers and veterans. Her work challenges the narrative that veterans could be victims or successes, disabled or whole, and places the reality along a spectrum of experiences. She illustrates how social and cultural expectations affected the veteran’s behavior during and after their service, and how this affected the rest of their lives." - Kathleeen Logothetis Thompson, Civil Discourse

"In Bodies in Blue, perhaps the most illuminating and engaging book on Civil War soldiers in decades, Handley-Cousins provides unique insight into how the narrow prescription of “martial masculinity” threatened the self-worth of disabled soldiers and altered their relationships to their families and to the state." Amy Fluker, New England Quarterly