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. "A Busca de Padrôes de Direitos Trabalhistas no Comércio Internacional." Estudos Avançados 27 (1996): 251-268. (Academic Article)

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)


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

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)

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)