John D. French
Professor of History

I am a professor of History at Duke University with secondary appointments in African and African-American as well as International Comparative Studies in Durham North Carolina. With a B.A. from Amherst College, I received my doctorate at Yale in 1985 under Brazilian historian Emília Viotti da Costa. Since 1979, I have been studying class, race, and politics in Brazil, Latin America, and beyond with 48 refereed articles as well as numerous chapters, briefing books, and reviews

My October 2020 UNC Press monograph entitled Lula and his Politics of Cunning: From Metalworker to President of Brazil was awarded two prizes in 2021: the Sérgio Buarque de Holanda Prize from the Brazil Section of the Latin American Studies Association and the Warren Dean Memorial Prize of the Conference on Latin American History. The book has been the subject of four round-tables with contributions from eighteen senior scholars across several disciplines: Labor: Studies in Working Class History (September 2021); American Historical Review (December 2021); Latin American Politics & Society (February 2022); and International Review of Social History (2022). Reviewed widely, it has also been the subject of four podcasts and the Brazilian translations will be published in September 2020 by Editora Expressāo Popular as Lula e a Politica de Astùcia: De Metalúrgico ao Presidente do Brasil.

My earlier books include The Brazilian Workers ABC (1992/1995 in Brazil), Drowning in Laws: Labor Law and Brazilian Political Culture (2004; 2002 in Brazil), and a coedited volume The Gendered Worlds of Latin American Women Workers (1997) as well as forthcoming co-authored pieces on racial quotas in higher education admissions in Brazil.

I have over the years served as Director of the Duke's Latin American Center and the Carolina-Duke Consortium, Treasurer of our national interdisciplinary organization LASA, and co-editor of the Hispanic American Historical Review for a five-year term that ended in June 2017.  Over the past seven years, I have served as co-director of the Duke Brazil Initiative, the Global Brazil Humanities Lab of the Franklin Humanities Institute (2014-17), and as faculty co-director of Bass Connections Project (2015-19) on "The Cost of Opportunity: Social Mobility and Higher Education in Rio's Baixada Fluminense": https://sites.duke.edu/project_duke_baixada_project/ In the spring of 2020, I co-taught a course on "Black Lives Matter Brazil/USA" with Mellon visiting professor Dr. Silvio Almeida of Mackenzie Presbyterian University/FGV in Sao Paulo that led to an ongoing student project that produced an exhibit currently on display in the Classroom Building on Duke’s East campus a remarkable website: http://blacklivesmatterbra-usa.com/

My past doctoral advisees have completed dissertations on Bolivia, Brazil (3), Chile, Jamaica & Trinidad and Tobago, Peru, Venezuela, early modern Spain, and southeastern pacific marine environmental history. My graduate teaching includes the "Modern Latin American History" colloquium, a two-semester sequence on "Afro-Brazilian History and Culture," and "The Latin American Wars of Independence." Over the years, I have directed numerous undergraduate theses in a variety of disciplines, eight of which won prizes. My undergraduate offerings include surveys of Brazilian Modern Latin American history while my newest offering focuses on the political and military history of the Latin American Wars of Independence. Over the years, I have directed numerous undergraduate theses in a variety of disciplines, eight of which won prizes. My undergraduate offerings include surveys of Brazilian Modern Latin American history while my newest offering focuses on the political and military history of the Latin American Wars of Independence.

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Contact Information

  • 331 Classroom Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
  • Dept of History, Box 90719, Durham, NC 27708-0719

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