Business, Labor or Working Class

This field of history draws together faculty and graduate students working on a wide variety of countries, geographic regions and chronological periods interested in the comparative history of labor and working classes.  The question that guides our teaching and research—who does the work and under what economic and political terms?—remains important to the understanding of early industrialization, labor movements and organization, as well as the challenges of mobilizing labor in the recent era of globalization.  Some recent topics of interest to our community of scholars include: slavery, the plantation household, international labor migration to the U.S., protest movements against the World Trade Organization, Black workers and civil rights unionism, and the recruitment and mobility of Indian ocean sailors.  In addition to movements and institutions based on industrial labor, courses and research projects also explore agricultural work, unpaid and domestic labor, informal labor, and the professions.  In all these spheres, the intersection with questions of race-ethnicity and gender are pursued through the “American” hemisphere and draw on in inter- and transnational contexts beyond our borders.

Our faculty are nationally active in a number of scholarly associations, conference groups and the editorial boards of journals.  Duke recently hosted the Labor and Working Class History Association’s 2007 annual conference on "Working Class Activism in the South and the Nation: Contemporary Challenges in Historical Context."

Ongoing labor history activities include the Triangle Labor and Civil Rights History Working Group which offers a network of ongoing debate, discussion, and civic engagement.  Subscribe to their listserv at for information on upcoming events and meetings, or follow them on Facebook.  The Triangle also hosts a number of distinguished labor historians including Jacquelyn Hall (UNC-CH) and David Zonderman (NCSU) and outstanding holdings on southern history at Duke, UNC, and the Center for Documentary Studies (Behind the Veil).  Major recent initiatives include the 2010 anniversary exploration of Black Reconstruction (1935) by W.E.B. Dubois.  Duke also hosts an annual Latin American Labor History Conference (LALHC), founded in 1984, attended by specialists from around the country.  Recent LALHC themes include "Military Labor in Latin America & Caribbean" (2011), "In First Person: Biography and History in Latin America" (2009), and “Nurturing Hope, Deepening Democracy, and Combating Inequalities in Brazil: An Assessment of Lula’s Presidency” (2008).


Edward J. Balleisen, Professor of History

Office: 210 Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 684-2699

My research and writing explores the historical intersections among law, business, politics, and policy in the modern United States, with a growing focus on the origins, evolution, and impacts of the modern regulatory state.  I have pursued a number of collaborative projects with historians and... full profile »

Sarah Jane Deutsch, Professor of History

Office: 326 Carr Building, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 684-2602

My work engages issues of difference, particularly racial, gender, class, and spatial formations. My current book project is “Making a Modern U.S. West, 1898-1942.” I have written three other books, Women and the City: Gender, Space and Power in Boston, 1870-1940 (2000); From Ballots to Breadlines... full profile »

Janet J. Ewald, Associate Professor with Tenure

Office: 316 Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 684-4280

My specialty in the history of Africa has led me, in both my teaching and research, to explore how Africans participated in the major currents of world history since about 1700. My first book Soldiers, Traders, and Slaves: State Formation and Economic Transformation in the Greater Nile Valley, 1700... full profile »

John D. French, Professor of History

Office: 231 Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 684-2536

I am an historian of modern Latin America with a specialization in Brazil. Since 2005, I have been working on a book entitled "Lula's Politics of Cunning: From Trade Unionism to the Presidency in Brazil" which draws on a multi-year international research project on “Nurturing Hope, Deepening... full profile »

Thavolia Glymph, Professor of African and African American Studies

Office: 236 Friedl Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 668-1625

Thavolia Glymph is Associate Professor of History at Duke University in the Departments of African & African American Studies and History and a Faculty Affiliate in the Duke University Population Research Institute (DuPri) and the Program in Women's Studies. Glymph is a historian of the... full profile »

Reeve Huston, Associate Professor of History

Office: 212 Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27710
Phone: (919) 684-2271

My research focuses on the emergence of two-party democracy in the United States--a process that took place between the 1790s and the 1840s. My current book project examines the origins of Jacksonian democracy. I also think and write about social and political conflicts over the distribution of... full profile »

Nancy MacLean, William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy

Nancy MacLean is an award-winning scholar of the twentieth-century U.S., whose new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, has been described by Publishers Weekly as “a thoroughly researched and... full profile »

Gunther W. Peck, Associate Professor of History

Office: 308 Carr Bldg, 136 Public Policy, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 668-5297

My research focuses on the long history of human trafficking and its relationship to the evolution of racial ideology, humanitarian intervention, and immigration policy in North America and Europe. In addition to mentoring both History and Public Policy graduate students, I regularly teach four... full profile »

Philip J. Stern, Sally Dalton Robinson Associate Professor of History

Office: Box 90719, History Dept, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 668-1695

My work focuses on the history of Britain and the British Empire, particularly in the early modern period (loosely defined). My first book, The Company-State, is a political and intellectual history of the English East India Company in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I am currently... full profile »