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, and Fink, L. "The Future of the International Labor Question From the Inside Looking Out." Labour/Le Travail (1996): 1-11. (Academic Article) Open Access Copy


French, JD. "Sindicatos y NAFTA: Reflejos Nacionalistas y Imperativos Transnacionales." Latin American Labor News (1996). (Academic Article)

French, JD, Keck, M, French, JD, and Keck, M. "The Workers' Party and Democratization in Brazil.The Workers' Party and Democratization in Brazil." Contemporary Sociology 24.3 (May 1995): 340-340. (Review) Full Text Open Access Copy

French, JD. "Reflejos Nacionalistas en el TLC." Memoria (Mexico D.F.) (1995): 27-31. (Academic Article)

French, JD. "Expectativas de un Transnacionalismo Sindical." Memoria (Mexico, D.F.) (1995): 26-31. (Academic Article)

French, JD. "NAFTA y la Integración Silenciosa de los Pueblos y de las Economias de Norte América." Latin American Labor News (1995): 5-9. (Academic Article)

French, JD, and Cowie, J. "El Acuerdo Lateral Sobre Trabajo del Tratado Norteamericano de Libre Comercio: Un Análisis Textual." Latin American Labor Occasional Paper #9 (1995). (Academic Article)

French, JD, and Smith, RE. "Labor, Free Trade, and Economic Integration in the Americas: A Conference Report." Latin American Labor News (1995): 3-4. (Academic Article)