John D. French

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. "Organizing dissent: Unions, the state, and the democratic teachers' movement in Mexico." INDUSTRIAL & LABOR RELATIONS REVIEW 51.2 (January 1998): 342-344. Full Text

French, JD. "Drowning in Laws but Starving (for Justice?): Brazilian Labor Law and the Workers’ Quest to Realize the Imaginary." Political Power and Social Theory 12 (1998): 177-214. (Academic Article)

French, JD, and James, D. "Oral History, Identity Formation, and Working-Class Mobilization." (1997): 297-313. (Academic Article)

French, JD. "Comercio y Trabajo en el Mundo: Hacia la Cláusula Social." Nueva Sociedad (1997): 142-157. (Academic Article)

French, JD. "Translation: An Imperative for a Transnational World." Duke-UNC Program in Latin American Studies News (1997): 1-5.

French, JD, and James, D. "Activist Women Workers in the Trade Unions." Latin American Labor News (1997): 14-14. (Academic Article)

French, JD. "New Works from the Duke-UNC Translation Series." Duke-UNC Program in Latin American Studies News (1997): 3-3. (Academic Article)

French, JD. "Translation: An Imperative for a Transnational World." LASA Forum 28 (1997): 44-45. (Academic Article)

French, JD. "The labor wars in Cordoba, 1955-1976: Ideology, work, and labor politics in an Argentine industrial city - Brennan,JP." INDUSTRIAL & LABOR RELATIONS REVIEW 49.3 (April 1996): 572-574. (Review) Full Text

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