School of Humanities and Sciences
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J. P. Daughton
Professor of History and, by courtesy, of French and Italian
BioJ. P. Daughton is Professor of History, and Professor (by courtesy) of French and Italian. He is a historian of Europe, imperialism and colonialism, and global history. His teaching and publications explore political, cultural, social, and environmental history, as well as the modern history of religion, technology, and humanitarianism. His affiliations at Stanford include the Europe Center, the Center for African Studies, and the Center for Human Rights and International Justice.
His 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 how the rhetoric of "civilization" and "development" were used to justify the loss of so many African lives. In the Forest of No Joy was reviewed widely, including in the Economist, the New York Review of Books, the TLS, and the New Yorker. It was shortlisted for the Cundill History Prize and was a finalist for the American Library in Paris Book Prize. A French translation is forthcoming with Éditions du Seuil.
Daughton is 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. 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.
He is also the editor, with Owen White, of In God’s Empire: French Missionaries in the Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2012), a collection of essays on the role played by French religious workers in the empire and beyond. His essays and reviews, on themes related to colonial violence, international governance, informal empire, and cultural policy, have appeared in publications like the Journal of Modern History, the American Historical Review, and French Historical Studies.
Daughton’s PhD advisees have written on a wide range of subjects, from nineteenth-century French cultural policies to the history of famine, and from alcohol consumption and violence in the First World War to the work of international NGOs in Algeria during decolonization. He is currently accepting graduate students interested in transnational history, modern Europe, empire, humanitarianism, international politics, and environment history.
Mosbacher Senior Fellow of Global Democracy at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and Professor, by courtesy, of Sociology and of Political Science
Current Research and Scholarly Interestsdemocratic development and regime change; U.S. foreign policy affecting democracy abroad; comparative trends in the quality and stability of democracy in developing countries and postcommunist states; and public opinion in new democracies, especially in East Asia