School of Humanities and Sciences
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J. P. Daughton
Professor of History
BioI am an historian of modern Europe and European imperialism with a particular interest in political, cultural, and social history, as well as the history of humanitarianism.
My most recent book, In the Forest of No Joy: The Congo-Océan Railroad and the Tragedy of French Colonialism (W. W. Norton, 2021), tells the story of one of the deadliest construction projects in history. Between 1921 and 1934, French colonial interests recruited -- most often by force -- more than 100,000 men, women, and children to work on a 500-kilometer stretch of rail between Brazzaville and the Atlantic Coast. In the end, tens of thousands of Africans were dead, killed by mistreatment, starvation, and disease. The book painstakingly recounts the experiences of local communities in the face of colonial economic development, considers why the railroad witnessed such extraordinary violence and suffering, and explores the strategies defenders of the train used to justify the loss of so many African lives.
I am also the author of An Empire Divided: Religion, Republicanism, and the Making of French Colonialism, 1880-1914 (Oxford University Press, 2006), a book that tells the story of how troubled relations between Catholic missionaries and a host of republican critics shaped colonial policies, Catholic perspectives, and domestic French politics in the decades before the First World War. Based on archival research from four continents, the book challenges the long-held view that French colonizing and “civilizing” goals were the product of a distinctly secular republican ideology built on Enlightenment ideals. By exploring the experiences of religious workers, one of the largest groups of French men and women working abroad, the book argues that many “civilizing” policies were wrought in the fires of discord between missionaries and anti-clerical republicans – discord that indigenous communities exploited in responding to colonial rule. A CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, An Empire Divided was awarded the George Louis Beer Prize for the best book in international history from the American Historical Association, as well as the Alf Andrew Heggoy Book Prize from the French Colonial Historical Society.
Assistant Professor of History
BioI am a historian of western Europe and the Mediterranean, primarily during the high and late Middle Ages. Much of my research tries to understand how law and society interact with each other, especially where legal norms conflict with social practices. Another strand of my research explores the history of economic life and economic thought, especially medieval debates over usury and moneylending. I have also written on the circulation of goods, people, and ideas in the medieval Mediterranean.
My current book project (Conflicts of Interest: Jews, Christian Moneylenders, and the Rise of Mass Expulsion in Medieval Europe) uses the banishment of Jewish and Christian moneylenders to explore the rise of mass expulsion as a widespread practice in the later Middle Ages. A second ongoing project examines the ways in which medieval canon law was adapted, reinterpreted, or resisted in local contexts in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The latter builds on Corpus Synodalium, a searchable full-text database of late medieval local ecclesiastical legislation that I have been developing since 2016, with assistance from colleagues around the world.
Born and raised in western Canada, I did my undergraduate and doctoral work at Harvard University, earning an MPhil in Medieval History from the University of Cambridge along the way. Before coming to Stanford, I was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows.