Born in Ithaca, NY, I moved to Geneva, Switzerland when I was eleven. After attending the Collège Calvin, I studied literature at the University of Geneva; I then returned to the U.S. to pursue graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving my PhD in 2004. I joined the Department of French & Italian at Stanford that same year.

I work for the most part on eighteenth-century France, with research interests at the crossroads of literature, history, political thought, and digital humanities (DH). I am the author of four books (three with the University of Chicago Press, the most recent with Princeton): the first on French revolutionary Terror; the second on the genealogy of the Enlightenment; the third on the early-modern history of human rights; and I recently completed an intellectual history of revolution from Thucydides to Lenin, entitled The Revolution to Come (Princeton).

I've edited or co-edited seven volumes of essays: "Myth and Modernity" (co-edited, Yale French Studies); "The Super-Enlightenment" (Voltaire Foundation, at Oxford University); "Scripting Revolution" (co-edited with Keith Baker, Stanford University Press); "Let There Be Enlightenment" (co-edited with Anton Matytsin, Johns Hopkins University Press); "Networks of Enlightenment" (co-edited with Chloe Edmonson, Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment); "Power and Time" (co-edtied with Stefanos Geroulanos and Natasha Wheatley, University of Chicago Press), and a volume (with Jennifer Pitts) for the Cambridge History of Rights. I was a PI for the "Mapping the Republic of Letters" project, and the founding faculty director of the "Humanities + Design" research lab at CESTA.

I often teach courses on the literature, philosophy, culture, and politics of the Enlightenment; nineteenth-century French novels; the French Revolution; early-modern political thought; French intellectual culture (“Coffee & Cigarettes”); liberal education ("Education as Self-Fashioning"); and historical networks ("Networks: Ecological, Revolutionary, and Digital"). Recently, most of my teaching as been for the COLLEGE program.

Academic Appointments

  • Professor, French and Italian
  • Professor (By courtesy), History
  • Professor (By courtesy), Political Science

Administrative Appointments

  • Faculty Director, Civic, Liberal, and Global Education (COLLEGE) (2021 - Present)
  • Faculty Director, Stanford Introductory Studies (SIS), VPUE (2019 - Present)
  • Chair, Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages (DLCL) (2015 - 2019)
  • Director, Department of French and Italian (2013 - 2014)
  • Director, Stanford Summer Humanities Institute (2011 - Present)

Honors & Awards

  • ACLS Digital Extension Grant, ACLS (2016-2017)
  • W. Warren Shelden University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, Stanford University (2013-2023)
  • Digital Humanities Implementation Grant ("Networks in History"), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) (2013-2015)
  • Faculty College, Stanford University (2011-2012)
  • Dean’s Distinguished Teaching Award, School of Humanities and Sciences (2011)
  • National Forum on the Future of Liberal Education, Fellow, Teagle Foundation (2010-2012)
  • “Digging into Data” Challenge Grant (“Digging Into the Enlightenment”), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) (2010-2011)
  • Oscar Kenshur Book Prize, Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies at Indiana University/ASECS (2010)
  • Fellowship at a Digital Humanities Center (ARTFL project), University of Chicago/National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) (2009-2010)
  • William H. and Frances Green Faculty Fellow, School of Humanities and Sciences (2009-2010)
  • William Koren, Jr. Prize (honorable mention), Society for French Historical Studies (2009)
  • Presidential Fund for Innovation in the Humanities Grant, Stanford University (2008-2011)
  • Stanford Humanities Center Fellowship, Stanford Humanities Center (2008-2009)
  • Walter J. Gores Award, highest award for excellence in teaching, Stanford University (2006)
  • Naomi Schor Prize, Nineteenth-Century French Studies Association (2003)
  • Fulbright Fellowship, Université Paris III-Sorbonne Nouvelle (2002-2003)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Member, Advisory Board (2022 - 2023)
  • Vice-chair, Faculty senate (2019 - 2020)
  • Faculty Senate, Stanford University (2018 - Present)
  • Faculty Director, Education as Self-Fashioning (ESF) (2018 - 2019)
  • Residential Fellow, Ng Humanities House (2015 - 2017)
  • Faculty Director, Humanities + Design research lab, CESTA (2013 - 2020)
  • Breadth Governance Board, Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE) (2013 - 2017)
  • Faculty Senate, Stanford University (2013 - 2015)
  • Faculty Advisory Committee, Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies (SPCS) (2012 - 2017)
  • Faculty Oversight Committee, Bing Overseas Studies Program (BOSP) (2012 - 2014)
  • Undergraduate Advisory Council (UGAC), Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE) (2012 - 2014)
  • Selection Committee, Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship (2012 - 2013)
  • Faculty Director, Stanford Summer Humanities Institute (2011 - Present)
  • Academic Council Committee on Libraries (C-LIB), Stanford University (2011 - 2014)
  • Search Committee (Academic Technology Specialist), Division of Literatures, Cultures and Languages (DLCL) (2011 - 2012)
  • Search Committee (Digital Humanities), Division of Literatures, Cultures and Languages (DLCL) & Department of English (2011 - 2012)
  • Steering Committee, Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) Program, Stanford University (2011 - 2012)
  • Executive Committee, Division of Literatures, Cultures and Languages (DLCL) (2010 - 2019)
  • Executive Committee, The Europe Center, FSI/School of H&S (2010 - 2018)
  • Chair of undergraduate studies, French, Department of French and Italian (2010 - 2014)
  • Chair, Undergraduate Affairs Committee, Division of Literature, Cultures and Languages (DLCL) (2010 - 2014)
  • Director of undergraduate studies, Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages (DLCL) (2010 - 2014)
  • Humanities Curriculum Committee, School of H&S, Stanford University (2010 - 2014)
  • Search Committee (Francophonie), Department of French & Italian (2010 - 2011)
  • Subcommittee on Breadth, Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES) (2010 - 2011)
  • Executive Committee, France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies (2009 - 2014)
  • Editor, Republics of Letters (journal) (2008 - 2017)
  • Planning and Personnel Committee, Division of Literatures, Cultures and Languages (DLCL) (2006 - 2007)
  • Steering Committee, Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities (2006 - 2007)
  • Academic Advisor, Undergraduate Advising Program, Stanford University (2004 - 2006)

Program Affiliations

  • Center for Human Rights and International Justice

Professional Education

  • Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, French (2004)
  • Licence ès Lettres, Université de Genève, French, English, Latin (1999)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

My current research lies in the fields of intellectual history, political thought, and digital humanities (DH). I recently published a book that explores the history of rights from the Wars of Religion to the Age of Revolutions; I'm currently working on a book that explores the intellectual history of revolution; I have a number of papers on Rousseau's political thought underway; and I continue to work on a number of DH projects.


  • Revolutions in Political Thought

    This book-length project explores how revolution went from being the means toward a constitutional settlement, to becoming an end in and of itself. Stretching from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, it focuses in particular on the transformation of revolutionary authority during the French Revolution; on Marx's development of the concept of a "revolution in permanence"; and finally on the relation between this new model and the political violence that has often accompanied revolutions. An article from this project appeared in French Historical Studies; another is forthcoming in The Scaffold of Sovereignty, ed. Zvi Ben-Dor, Stefanos Geroulanos, and Nicole Jerr (Columbia University Press).


    France, Russia, Germany

  • Digital Humanities

    I'm a PI on the NEH-funded digital humanities project "Mapping the Republic of Letters." This project, which brings together other scholars at Stanford and around the world, aims to map the correspondence and social networks of major intellectual figures. A series of articles based on this project is under review at the American Historical Review; a spin-off article, "The French Enlightenment Network," is forthcoming in the Journal of Modern History (co-written with Maria Comsa, Melanie Conroy, Chloe Edmondson, and Claude Willan). The tool-building part of this project has now been subsumed in the Humanities + Design Research Lab, of which I am the founding faculty director; we received another NEH grant to develop Palladio. This Lab is itself part of Stanford's Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, or CESTA. More recently, I have been working on the project "Writing Rights," and published an article exploring the potential of JSTOR's data portal for exploring the "great unread" of scholarship. I was also the faculty advisor for Stanford's French Revolution Digital Archive (, and collaborate regularly with the ARTFL project at the University of Chicago.


    Stanford, CA

2023-24 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • On the liberties of the ancients: licentiousness, equal rights, and the rule of law HISTORY OF EUROPEAN IDEAS Edelstein, D., Straumann, B. 2023
  • A "Revolution" in Political Thought: Translations of Polybius Book 6 and the Conceptual History of Revolution JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS Edelstein, D. 2022; 83 (1): 17-40


    How did "revolution" obtain its particular meanings in political thought? This article examines the role played by translations of Polybius's Histories (Book 6), where "revolution" was the near-unanimous choice for rendering "anacyclosis." It further claims "revolution" displaced the earlier Aristotelian vocabulary of political change (in translations, "mutation" and "sedition"). Finally, it argues that recognizing the Polybian source of much "revolutionary" language in the early modern period fills in an important chapter in the conceptual history of revolution. For Polybians, revolution was a problem to be solved by a mixed government. Only in the eighteenth century would revolution become a solution.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000762403400002

    View details for PubMedID 35185022

  • Rousseau, Bodin, and the Medieval Corporatist Origins of Popular Sovereignty POLITICAL THEORY Edelstein, D. 2021
  • Do We Want a Revolution without Revolution? Reflections on Political Authority FRENCH HISTORICAL STUDIES Edelstein, D. 2012; 35 (2): 269-289
  • You Say You Want a Revolution? Radical Idealism and Its Tragic Consequences (Book Review) JOURNAL OF MODERN HISTORY Book Review Authored by: Edelstein, D. 2022; 94 (1): 170-172
  • Public Welfare and the Natural Order On the Theological and Free-Market Sources of Socioeconomic Rights SOCIAL RIGHTS AND THE POLITICS OF OBLIGATION IN HISTORY Edelstein, D., Jensen, S. L., Walton, C. 2022: 47-62
  • Christian Human Rights in the French Revolution JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS Edelstein, D. 2018; 79 (3): 411–26


    This essay explores the early Catholic response to the concept of human rights. It is widely assumed that the Catholic Church opposed human rights talk in the wake of the French Revolution, and only slowly came around to accepting it in the twentieth century. However, a more systematic analysis of Pius VI's stance toward the French Revolution reveals that he approved of human rights, but had a more Thomistic understanding of them than what was found in the French Declaration. The Vatican's embrace of human rights in the 1930s should accordingly be seen as a continuity of more long-standing practices.

    View details for DOI 10.1353/jhi.2018.0025

    View details for Web of Science ID 000445098400005

    View details for PubMedID 30245487

  • LET THERE BE ENLIGHTENMENT The Religious and Mystical Sources of Rationality Introduction LET THERE BE ENLIGHTENMENT: THE RELIGIOUS AND MYSTICAL SOURCES OF RATIONALITY Matytsin, A. M., Edelstein, D., Matytsin, A. M., Edelstein, D. 2018: 1–20
  • The Aristotelian Enlightenment LET THERE BE ENLIGHTENMENT: THE RELIGIOUS AND MYSTICAL SOURCES OF RATIONALITY Edelstein, D., Matytsin, A. M., Edelstein, D. 2018: 187–201

    View details for DOI 10.1111/hith.12039

    View details for Web of Science ID 000417848900006

  • Enlightenment Rights Talk JOURNAL OF MODERN HISTORY Edelstein, D. 2014; 86 (3): 530-565

    View details for DOI 10.1086/676691

    View details for Web of Science ID 000341513400002

  • To Quote or not to Quote: Citation Strategies in the Encyclopedie JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS Edelstein, D., Morrissey, R., Roe, G. 2013; 74 (2): 213-236
  • A Response to Jonathan Israel Self-Evident Truths? Human Rights and the Enlightenment Edelstein, D. edited by Tunstall, K. London: Bloomsbury Press. 2012
  • How is Innovation Taught? On Liberal Education and the Knowledge Economy Liberal Education 96 Edelstein, D. 2010
  • The Super-Enlightenment: Daring To Know Too Much Edelstein, D. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation. 2010
  • Iphigenia and the iPhone Inside Higher Ed Edelstein, D. 2009
  • The Birth of Ideology from the Spirit of Myth: Georges Sorel among the Idéologues The Re- Enchantement of the World: Secular Magic in a Rational Age edited by Landy, J., Saler, M., Edelstein, D. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 2009
  • Humanism, l’Esprit Philosophique, and the Encyclopédie Republics of Letters Edelstein, D. 2009
  • War and terror: The law of nations from Grotius to the French revolution FRENCH HISTORICAL STUDIES Edelstein, D. 2008; 31 (2): 229-262
  • Hostis Humani Generis: Devils, Natural Right, Terror, and the French Revolution Telos: A Quarterly Journal of Critical Thought Edelstein, D. 2007; 141
  • Hyperborean Atlantis: Jean-Sylvain Bailly, Madame Blavatsky, and the Nazi Myth Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture Edelstein, D. 2006; 35
  • Between Myth and History: Michelet, Lévi-Strauss, Barthes, and the Structural Analysis of Myth Clio: A Journal of Literature, History, and the Philosophy of History Edelstein, D. 2004; 32 (4)
  • Moving Through the Looking-Glass: Deleuzian Reflections on the Series in Mallarmé L’Esprit Créateur Edelstein, D. 2000; 40 (3)