Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
St. Mary's College of Maryland
Website URL
French, European, family, gender, sexuality, politics, the politics of reproduction, the culture of fashion and beauty
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

I received my PhD at Johns Hopkins University in January 1993 in French History; my areas of expertise are family history (my first book was the history of a family in eighteenth-century France); gender history (my second book examined maternal societies in nineteenth-century France), and the intersection of both with politics. My book with Tracy Adams, The Creation of the French Royal Mistress: From Agnès Sorel to Madame Du Barry came out with Pennsylvania State University press in April 2020 and is now available in paperback in June 2021.

I was a fellow with the American Council of Learned Societies for the 2020-21 academic year, and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow at the Newberry Library in the Spring of 2021. My new project is a political and cultural history of the Merveilleuses, a group of French women under the Directory (1794-99). I am especially interested in their impact and function in the historical imaginary of scholars of the French Revolution; the fixation on these women’s beauty, style, and sexuality has obscured their political and cultural significance. I plan to highlight how disparagement of women’s sexuality and influence continues to fascinate, but also serves as shorthand for conservative critiques of social and political change.

I also write op-eds on topics that link historical insights with current events, especially with regard to the politics of reproduction, women, and sexuality.

I work at a small liberal arts colleges, and teach a wide range of courses (European history from the Middle Ages to the present),  which allows me to consider past and current events in a broad historical context.

Recent Publications

Opinion/short essays/blog pieces (since 2014):

“Universities Can’t Fend Off Attacks Because They’ve Forgotten their Roots,” The Washington Post, January 19, 2023, [One of History New Network’s Roundup Top Ten for the week ending January 20, 2023]

“The Danger of Pitting Americans against Each Other,” The Washington Post, September 1, 2022,  [One of History New Network’s Roundup Top Ten for the week ending September 2, 2020]

“The New Supreme Court Case that Imperils American Democracy,” The Washington Post, July 8, 2022,

“The Dictatorship of the Supreme Court,” History News Network, July 8, 2022,

“Can Economic Sanctions End a War?” The Washington Post, March 1, 2022,

“Texas’s New Abortion Law Threatens to Resurrect 19th Century French Policy, The Washington Post, November 1, 2021,

“The Catholic Church has Long Tried to Discipline Political Leaders,” The Washington Post, July 26, 2021,

“Best Books on Beauty and the Politics of Fashion,”

“What do Radical Conservatives Fear in the Teaching of History?” The Baltimore Sun, June 25, 2021 (print edition June 27, 2021),

“The Rise and Fall of the French Royal Mistress,” with Tracy Adams, Age of Revolutions, June 7, 2021 [#1 most frequently viewed Age of Revolutions essay published from 2015–2021],

“The French Revolution Offers a Critical Lesson as We Return to Normal,” The Washington Post, May 7, 2021, [Featured as an “Applied History Article of the Week,” by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs | Applied History Project, Harvard Kennedy Center, May 13, 2021]

“Four Cautionary Tales from the French Revolution for Today,” Age of Revolutions, January 22, 2021[#1 most frequently viewed Age of Revolutions essay published from 2015–2021], . Translated into Portuguese for

“Trump’s Supporters Think They’re Being Patriotic. And That’s the Problem,” The Washington Post, January 7, 2021, [One of History New Network’s Roundup Top Ten for the week ending January 8, 2021]

“The GOP May Eventually Turn on Trump, but Doing So Actually could Hurt Democracy,” The Washington Post, December 11, 2020,

“When the Privileged Don’t Pay their Fair Share in Taxes, It Can Spark Revolution,” The Washington Post, September 29, 2020, [one of the History News Network’s Top Ten reads;]

“Nepotism is Bad for Government. Trump’s Convention Reminds us Why,” The Washington Post, August 27, 2020,

“When Will the Country Be Ready for a Woman President?” The Baltimore Sun, July 27, 2020,

“Are We on the Brink of Revolution?” The Washington Post, June 4, 2020,

“Will History Judge Trump? Only If We Retain our Capacity for Judgment,” with Nina Kushner, History News Network, May 24, 2020,

“Coronavirus Exposes the True Cost of Republicans’ Acquiescence to Donald Trump,” The Washington Post, March 16, 2020,

“Will the Judiciary Bow to Trump?” The Baltimore Sun, October 9, 2019 (print edition October 10, 2019),

“Is America Headed towards a Second Revolution?” The Baltimore Sun, July 15, 2019 (print edition July 15, 2019),

“What’s Wrong with the ‘Constitutional Republic’ Defense,” The Baltimore Sun, November 28, 2018 (print edition November 29, 2018),

“What Else Does the GOP Want?” The Baltimore Sun, July 8, 2018 (print edition, July 9, 2018),

“Why President Trump Resembles a Pre-Revolution French Monarch,” The Washington Post, March 22, 2018,

“Tyranny Does Not Arrive in One Fell Swoop,” The Baltimore Sun, September 3, 2017 (print edition, September 4, 2017),

“America Hates Older Women,” The Baltimore Sun, January 11, 2017 (print edition, January 12, 2017),

“Let the Past Inform our Understanding of the Present,” Education Week, December 14, 2015,

“Justice Kennedy’s Misperception of Marriage,” The Baltimore Sun, May 8, 2015 (print edition, May 11, 2015),

“The Supreme Court Has Decided That Women’s Rights Aren’t Human Rights,” Rewire, posted July 2, 2014.


The Creation of the French Royal Mistress, with Tracy Adams (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2020; paperback 2021)

Co-editor, with Tracy Adams, and contributing author, Female Beauty Systems: Beauty as Social Capital in Western Europe and the United States, Middle Ages to the Present (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015)

Poverty, Charity and Motherhood:  Maternal Societies in Nineteenth-Century France (University of Illinois Press, 2010)

A Taste for Comfort and Status: A Bourgeois Family in Eighteenth-Century France (Penn State Press, 2000)

Peer-reviewed articles (since 2014):

“The Royal Mistress and the Othering of the French Queen,” with Tracy Adams, in Significant Others: Alterity in the Premodern World, ed. Zita Rohr and Jonathan Spangler (Routledge, 2021).

“The French Royal Mistress as Diplomat,” with Tracy Adams in L’identité du diplomate du Moyen Âge au XIXe siècle: métier ou noble loisir? ed. Indravati Félicité (Garnier Classique, 2020)

“The Gallic Singularity and the Royal Mistress,” French Politics, Culture & Society, 38:1 (Spring 2020): 44–66

“The Cultural Implications of Performance,” Arts and International Affairs 2:1 (Winter 2017): 83-91

“Mistresses and Merveilleuses: The Historiographical Record on Female Political Players of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” Medieval Feminist Forum 51:2 (2015): 95-103

“‘Belle comme le jour’:  Beauty, Power, and the King’s Mistress,” French History 29:1 (2015): 1-21

“‘Venus of the Capitol’:  Madame Tallien and the Politics of Beauty Under the Directory,” French Historical Studies, 37: 4 (Fall 2014): 599-629


Interview with Jana Byars, New Books Network podcast, recorded September 20, 2022.

“Is the U.S. Supreme Court the New Bastille?” Richard Levick of LEVICK’s In House Warrior podcast, presented by CCBJ, July 25, 2022, Video promotion

History of economic sanctions, The Laura Coates Show (SiriusXM, the POTUS channel), March 23, 2022

Interview with Gary Girod on The Creation of the French Royal Mistress for the French History Podcast,

“Cautionary Tales from the French Revolution,” virtual live discussion with Keelin Burke, Newberry Library, January 15, 2021,

PSU Press Presents: Virtual Author series: Medieval & Early Modern Women in Politics & Power, September 25, 2020 (

Invited commentator for Podcast 13, episode 204A, “Age before Beauty,” Part I (

Media Coverage
See opinion pieces listed above; I write occasional op-eds, especially for the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post's Made by History.
Country Focus
France. U.S.
Expertise by Geography
France, Western Europe
Expertise by Chronology
18th century, Early Modern, Modern
Expertise by Topic
Family, Gender, Politics, Rebellion & Revolution, Sexuality, Women