John D. French

Professor of History

External Address: 
331 Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Internal Office Address: 
Box 90719, Durham, NC 27708-0719
(919) 684-2536


I am a professor of History and African and African-American Studies at Duke University 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 42 refereed articles and three books: 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 just completed the first of a multivolume biography of Brazilian trade unionist turned President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva: The Unknown Lula: The Origins of a Brazilian President, 1945-1968

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 five years, I have founder and served as co-director of the Duke Brazil Initiative, the Global Brazil Humanities Lab of the Franklin Humanities Institute (2014-17), and a leader of the Bass Connections Project om "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. 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 Indepenedence." 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, Afro-Brazilian, and Modern Latin American history and Global Protest with a new offering planned on the political and military history of the Latin American Wars of Independence.

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Yale University 1985

French, JD. "Women and Working Class Mobilization in Postwar São Paulo, Brazil 1945-1948." The Gendered Worlds of Latin American Women Workers. 1997. 176-207.

French, JD. "A Busca de Padrôes de Direitos Trabalhistas no Comércio Internacional: A "Cláusula Social"." Processos de Integração Regional e a Sociedade: O Sindicalismo na Argentina, Brasil, México, e Venezuela. Ed. H Zylberstajn and E al. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1996. 326-345.

French, JD. "The Declaration of Philadelphia and the Global Social Charter of the United Nations, 1944-1945." International Labour Standards in the Globalized Economy: Issues, Challenges, and Perspectives. Ed. W Sengenberger and D Campbell. Geneva: International Labor Organization, 1994. 19-26.

French, JD. "The Populist Gamble of Getúlio Vargas in 1945: Political and Ideological Transitions in Brazil." Latin America in the 1940s: War and Postwar Adjustments. Ed. D Rock. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. 141-165.


French, JD, and Wintersteen, K. "Crafting an International Legal Regime for Worker Rights: Assessing the Literature since the 1999 Seattle WTO Protests." International Labor and Working-Class History (2009): 1-24. (Academic Article) Open Access Copy

French, JD, and Wintersteen, K. "Crafting an International Legal Regime for Worker Rights: Assessing the Literature since the 1999 Seattle WTO Protests." INTERNATIONAL LABOR AND WORKING-CLASS HISTORY 75 (2009): 145-168. Open Access Copy

French, JD. "Review of the documentary “Lula’s Brazil: The Management of Hope” Directed by Gonzalo Arijón (2005)." Labor: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas 6.3 (2009): 120-122. (Review) Open Access Copy

French, JD. "Obama e os limites da ousadia." Teoria e Debate 78 (July 2008): 44-48. (Academic Article) Open Access Copy