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

Selected Grants

Visiting Faculty Share Agreement awarded by University of Richmond (Principal Investigator). 2014

Beyond the Battlefield: The Labor of Military Service in Latin America and the Caribbean awarded by Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2010 to 2011

Assessing the First Term in Office of President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (2002-2010): Ruptures or Continuity in Public awarded by Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2007 to 2008

"Lectures by scholars doing cutting-edge research on Latin America in Spring 2001" awarded by Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2001

Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Program awarded by Department of Education (Principal Investigator). 1999 to 2000

French, J. D. Drowning in Laws: Labor Law and Brazilian Political Culture. University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

French, J. D. Afogados em Leis: A CLT e a Cultura Politica dos Trabalhadores Brasileiros. Sao Paulo: Fundacao Perseu Abramo, 2001.

French, J. D., and Alexandre Fortes. Urban Labor History in Twentieth Century Brazil. Albuquerque: Latin American Institute/University of New Mexico, 1998. Open Access Copy

French, J. D. The Brazilian Workers’ ABC: Class Conflict and Alliances in Modern Sao Paulo. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

French, J. D. “Another World History Is Possible.” In Workers Across the Americas: The Transnational Turn in Labor History, 2011. Full Text

French, J. D. “Another World History Is Possible: Reflections on the Translocal, Transnational, and Global.” In Workers Across the Americas:The Transnational Turn in Labor History, edited by Leon Fink, 3–11. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, USA, 2011. Open Access Copy

French, J. D. “Many Lefts, One Path? Chávez and Lula.” In Latin America’s Left Turns: Politics, Policies and Trajectories of Change, edited by Maxwell A. Cameron and Eric Hershberg, 41–60. Lynne Rienner, 2010.

French, J. D. “The Professor and the Worker: Using Brazil to Better Understand Latin America's Plural Left.” In Rethinking Intellectuals in Latin America, edited by Mabel Moraña and Bret Darin Gustafson, 91–113. Frankfurt, Germany and Madrid, Spain: Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2010. Open Access Copy

French, J. D. “Os Trabalhos Arquivísticos Voltado ao Mundo dos Trabalhadores: Avanços e Desafios em América Latina desde 1992.” In O Mundo Dos Trabalhadores e Seus Arquivos, edited by Antonio José Marques and Inez Terezinha Stampa, 83–101. Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil: Arquivo Nacional/CUT, 2009. Open Access Copy

French, J. D. “North American Free Trade Agreement.” In Encyclopedia of United States Labor and Working-Class History, edited by Eric Arnesen, 2:1011–16. New York, NY: Routledge, 2007. Open Access Copy

French, J. D. “The Laboring and Middle-Class Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean: Historical Trajectories and New Research Directions.” In Global Labour History, edited by Jan Lucassen, 289–333. Peter Lange Pub Inc, 2006. Open Access Copy

French, J. D. “As Falsas Dicotomias entre Escravidao e Liberdade: Continuidades e Rupturas na Formaçao Política e Social do Brasil Moderno.” In Trabalho Escravo: Brasil e Europa, Séculos XVII e XIX, edited by Douglas Cole Libby and Júnia Ferreira Furtado, 75–96. Anablume, 2006.

French, J. D. “Proclamando Direitos, Metendo o Pau, e Lutando pelos Direitos: A Questao Social como Caso de Polícia, 1920-1964.” In Direitos e Justicas No Brasil: Ensaios de Historia Social, edited by Silvia Lara and Joseli Mendonca, 379–416. Campinas: Editora da UNICAMP, 2006. Open Access Copy

Munck, Ronaldo, ed. “Labour and NAFTA: Nationalist Reflexes and Transnational Imperatives in North America, 1991-1995.” In Labour and Globalisation, 149–65. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2004. Open Access Copy


Wolford, W., and J. D. French. “Deconstructing the post-neoliberal state.” Latin American Perspectives 43, no. 2 (March 1, 2016): 4–21. Full Text

French, John D. “The tessitura of rights: employers and employees in labor law, 1953-1964.” Hahr Hispanic American Historical Review 93, no. 4 (November 2013): 723–24.

French, J. D. “Política, Memória, e Vida Operaria na Cinebiografia Lula, Filho do Brasil.” Perseu. História, Memória E Política [Revisa Do Centro Sérgio Buarque De Holanda Da Fundação Perseu Abramo], 2013, 259–77.

French, J. D. “Review of A tessitura dos direitos: Patrões e empregados na justiça do trabalho, 1953 – 1964 by Larissa Correia.” Hispanic American Historical Review 93 (2013): 723–24.

French, J. D., and A. Fortes. “When the plumber(s) come to fix a country: Doing Labor History in Brazil.” International Labor and Working Class History 82, no. 1 (September 1, 2012): 117–26. Full Text

French, J. D. “Robert Jackson Alexander (1918 - 2010).” Hispanic American Historical Review 91, no. 1 (February 1, 2011): 163–64. Full Text


French, J. D. “Question and Answer on comments by Brazilian President Lula at the International Labor Organization regarding labor, the G-20, and global crisis.” Latin American Advisor [Inter American Dialogue, Washington, Dc), August 2009.

French, J. D. “Guest Commentary: The John Hope I Came to Know.” The Chronicle, 2009.

French, J. D. “Obama e os Limites da Ousadia [Obama and the Limits of Audacity].” Teoria E Debate (Sao Paulo Brazil), August 2008.

French, J. D. “Commentary on slave labor and Brazilian pig iron imports into the United States.” Latin American Advisor [Inter American Dialogue, Washington, D.C.], 2006.

Fall 2019

Global Brazil (HISTORY 328)
Bivins 109, TuTh 10:05 AM-11:20 AM

Spring 2019

Latin Am Wars Of Independence (HISTORY 264)
Class Bldg 240, WF 10:05 AM-11:20 AM
Latin American History (Top) (HISTORY 790S-02)
Class Bldg 242, W 06:15 PM-08:45 PM

Spring 2018

Afro-Brazil Culture/hst (HISTORY 327)
Languages 208, MW 01:25 PM-02:40 PM
Latin Am. Since Independence (HISTORY 329)
TBA, TuTh 03:05 PM-04:20 PM

Fall 2017

Global Brazil (HISTORY 328)
Soc/Psych 127, TuTh 10:05 AM-11:20 AM
Latin American History (Top) (HISTORY 790S-02)
Carr 229, W 07:30 PM-10:00 PM

Spring 2017

Latin American History (Top) (HISTORY 790S-02)
Smith Wrhs 177, Th 06:30 PM-09:00 PM

Fall 2016

Afro-Brazil Culture/hst (HISTORY 327)
Smith Wrhs B189, TuTh 10:05 AM-11:20 AM

Spring 2016

Global Brazil (HISTORY 328)
Smith Wrhs B189, MW 10:05 AM-11:20 AM
Latin Am. Since Independence (HISTORY 329)
Smith Wrhs B189, Th 10:05 AM-11:20 AM
Smith Wrhs B189, F 10:05 AM-11:20 AM

Spring 2015

Cap Sem-Latin Amer. Left Turns (HISTORY 471S)
West Duke 105, MW 01:25 PM-02:40 PM

Fall 2014

Global Brazil (HISTORY 328)
Smith B189, TuTh 11:45 AM-01:00 PM
Latin American History (Top) (HISTORY 790S-02)
Smith B189, Tu 06:15 PM-08:45 PM