John D. French

John D. French

Professor of History

External Address: 
331 Classroom Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Internal Office Address: 
Dept of History, Box 90719, Durham, NC 27708-0719
(919) 684-3014


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 from UNC Press zil, Latin America, and beyond with 48 refereed articles and four books. My newest monograph is forthcoming in October 2020 under the title Lula and his Politics of Cunning: From Metalworker to President of Brazil. 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).

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" 

My past grad advisees have completed dissertations on Bolivia, Brazil (2), Chile, Jamaica & Trinidad and Tobago, Peru, Venezuela, and southeastern pacific marine environmental history and my cureent advisees are working on Brazil (2) and early modern Spain. 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 hisgtory while my newest offering focuses on the political and military history of the Latin American Wars of Independence. In the spring of 2020, I co-taught a course on "Black Lives Matter Brazil/USA" with Mellon visiting professor Dr. Silvio Almeida from Brazil.

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Yale University 1985

Selected Grants

Visiting Faculty Share Agreement awarded by University of Richmond (Principal Investigator). 2014

Beyond the Battlefield: The Labor of Military Service in Latin America and the Caribbean awarded by Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2010 to 2011

Assessing the First Term in Office of President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (2002-2010): Ruptures or Continuity in Public awarded by Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2007 to 2008

"Lectures by scholars doing cutting-edge research on Latin America in Spring 2001" awarded by Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2001

Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Program awarded by Department of Education (Principal Investigator). 1999 to 2000

French, J. D. Drowning in Laws: Labor Law and Brazilian Political Culture. University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

French, J. D. Afogados em Leis: A CLT e a Cultura Politica dos Trabalhadores Brasileiros. Sao Paulo: Fundacao Perseu Abramo, 2001.

French, J. D., and Alexandre Fortes. Urban Labor History in Twentieth Century Brazil. Albuquerque: Latin American Institute/University of New Mexico, 1998. Open Access Copy

French, J. D. The Brazilian Workers’ ABC: Class Conflict and Alliances in Modern Sao Paulo. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

French, J. D. “Another World History Is Possible.” Workers Across the Americas: The Transnational Turn in Labor History, 2011. Scopus, doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199731633.003.0001. Full Text

French, J. D. “Another World History Is Possible: Reflections on the Translocal, Transnational, and Global.” Workers Across the Americas:The Transnational Turn in Labor History, edited by Leon Fink, Oxford University Press, USA, 2011, pp. 3–11. Open Access Copy

French, J. D. “Many Lefts, One Path? Chávez and Lula.” Latin America’s Left Turns: Politics, Policies and Trajectories of Change, edited by Maxwell A. Cameron and Eric Hershberg, Lynne Rienner, 2010, pp. 41–60.

French, J. D. “The Professor and the Worker: Using Brazil to Better Understand Latin America's Plural Left.” Rethinking Intellectuals in Latin America, edited by Mabel Moraña and Bret Darin Gustafson, Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2010, pp. 91–113. Open Access Copy

French, J. D. “Os Trabalhos Arquivísticos Voltado ao Mundo dos Trabalhadores: Avanços e Desafios em América Latina desde 1992.” O Mundo Dos Trabalhadores e Seus Arquivos, edited by Antonio José Marques and Inez Terezinha Stampa, Arquivo Nacional/CUT, 2009, pp. 83–101. Open Access Copy

French, J. D. “North American Free Trade Agreement.” Encyclopedia of United States Labor and Working-Class History, edited by Eric Arnesen, vol. 2, Routledge, 2007, pp. 1011–16. Open Access Copy

French, J. D. “The Laboring and Middle-Class Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean: Historical Trajectories and New Research Directions.” Global Labour History, edited by Jan Lucassen, Peter Lange Pub Inc, 2006, pp. 289–333. Open Access Copy

French, J. D. “As Falsas Dicotomias entre Escravidao e Liberdade: Continuidades e Rupturas na Formaçao Política e Social do Brasil Moderno.” Trabalho Escravo: Brasil e Europa, Séculos XVII e XIX, edited by Douglas Cole Libby and Júnia Ferreira Furtado, Anablume, 2006, pp. 75–96.

French, J. D. “Proclamando Direitos, Metendo o Pau, e Lutando pelos Direitos: A Questao Social como Caso de Polícia, 1920-1964.” Direitos e Justicas No Brasil: Ensaios de Historia Social, edited by Silvia Lara and Joseli Mendonca, Campinas: Editora da UNICAMP, 2006, pp. 379–416. Open Access Copy

French, J. D. “Labor and NAFTA: Nationalist Reflexes and Transnational Imperatives in North America.” Labour and Globalisation: Results and Prospects, edited by Ronaldo Munck, Liverpool: University of Liverpool Press, 2004, pp. 149–65.


Wolford, W., and J. D. French. “Deconstructing the post-neoliberal state.” Latin American Perspectives, vol. 43, no. 2, Mar. 2016, pp. 4–21. Scopus, doi:10.1177/0094582X15623766. Full Text

French, John D. “The tessitura of rights: employers and employees in labor law, 1953-1964.” Hahr Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 93, no. 4, Nov. 2013, pp. 723–24.

French, J. D. “Política, Memória, e Vida Operaria na Cinebiografia Lula, Filho do Brasil.” Perseu. História, Memória E Política [Revisa Do Centro Sérgio Buarque De Holanda Da Fundação Perseu Abramo], 2013, pp. 259–77.

French, J. D. “Review of A tessitura dos direitos: Patrões e empregados na justiça do trabalho, 1953 – 1964 by Larissa Correia.” Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 93, 2013, pp. 723–24.

Fortes, A., and J. French. “The "Lula Era", the 2010 presidential elections and the challenges of post-neoliberalism.” Tempo Social, vol. 24, no. 1, Dec. 2012, pp. 201–28. Scopus, doi:10.1590/S0103-20702012000100011. Full Text

French, J. D., and A. Fortes. “When the plumber(s) come to fix a country: Doing Labor History in Brazil.” International Labor and Working Class History, vol. 82, no. 1, Sept. 2012, pp. 117–26. Scopus, doi:10.1017/S0147547912000336. Full Text

French, J. D. “"Kill the Americans!": The U.S. Government, Citizens, and Companies in Latin America from the Panama Canal to Plan Colombia.” Radical History Review, vol. 2012, no. 112, Duke University Press, Jan. 2012, pp. 201–08. Crossref, doi:10.1215/01636545-1416259. Full Text Open Access Copy

French, John D. “Robert Jackson Alexander (1918 – 2010).” Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 91, no. 1, Duke University Press, Feb. 2011, pp. 163–64. Crossref, doi:10.1215/00182168-2010-090. Full Text


French, J. D. “Question and Answer on comments by Brazilian President Lula at the International Labor Organization regarding labor, the G-20, and global crisis.” Latin American Advisor [Inter American Dialogue, Washington, Dc), Aug. 2009, pp. 4–4.

French, J. D. “Guest Commentary: The John Hope I Came to Know.” The Chronicle, 2009.

French, J. D. “Obama e os Limites da Ousadia [Obama and the Limits of Audacity].” Teoria E Debate (Sao Paulo Brazil), Aug. 2008, pp. 44–48.

French, J. D. “Commentary on slave labor and Brazilian pig iron imports into the United States.” Latin American Advisor [Inter American Dialogue, Washington, D.C.], 2006.