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. "A História latino-americana do trabalho hoje: Uma reflexão auto-crítica." Revista de Historia (2002): 11-28. (Academic Article) Open Access Copy

French, JD. "One-Question Interview: Watching Lula." Dialogue 17 (2002).

French, JD. "Intimate ironies: Modernity and the making of middle-class lives in Brazil." HISPANIC AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW 81.1 (February 2001): 198-200. Full Text Open Access Copy

French, JD. "'They Don't Wear Black-Tie': Intellectuals and workers in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1958-1981." INTERNATIONAL LABOR AND WORKING-CLASS HISTORY 59 (2001): 60-80. Open Access Copy

French, JD. "Beyond the Catastrophe." The Chronicle (2001): 19-19. (Academic Article)

French, JD. "Beyond Words, Without Words, and Finding Words." Dialogue 16 (2001): 7-11. (Academic Article)

French, JD. "Labour relations and the new unionism in contemporary Brazil." INTERNATIONAL LABOR AND WORKING-CLASS HISTORY 60 (2001): 234-237. (Review)

French, JD. "El Auge de Los Estudios Sobre el Trabajo en Latinoamerica." Historia Social (2001): 129-150.