The Department of History
Assistant Professor of Modern French History; History of Empire; History of Food; Commodity Studies
Elizabeth Heath joins Baruch as Assistant Professor of History. She earned her B.A. from New College of Florida and her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago where she also held a postdoctoral fellowship in the Society of Fellows. An historian of Modern France and the French Empire, her research focuses on colonialism, globalization, and everyday life in France and the French empire.
Her first book, Wine, Sugar, and the Making of Modern France: Economic Crisis and the Racialization of French Citizenship, 1870-1910, was published by Cambridge University Press in October 2014 and received the Alf Andrew Heggoy Prize for the best book on the French colonial experience from 1815 to the present by the French Colonial Historical Society in May 2015. This work examines how two different and unequal forms of racialized citizenship emerged from the Third Republic’s efforts to manage the local effects of global economic crisis at the turn of the twentieth century. The book traces the transformation of French republican citizenship through a comparative social history of two sets of citizens living in different regions of the French Empire: the rural, wine-growing inhabitants of the southern metropolitan department of the Aude and the colonial, sugar-producing population of the Caribbean colony of Guadeloupe. Wine, Sugar, and the Making of Modern France ultimately argues that these two divergent forms of citizenship were fundamentally connected, both reflecting the ways that the Third Republic used empire to balance the competing logics of republicanism and capitalism, and in turn came to be reconstituted as a racial state.
Her current project, Everyday Colonialism: Commodities of Empire and the Crafting of French Capitalism, 1750-1950, examines the broad history of the French Empire through the “life stories” of key colonial commodities like sugar, vanilla, chocolate, wine, and bananas, which flowed into France from the seventeenth century onwards. The project will show how colonial commodities and colonial commerce shaped the way metropolitan men and women understood what it meant to be French and modern. Use of colonial goods restructured French daily life, redefined family and class relations, reshaped conceptions of gender and race, and generated new economic activities and cultural expressions. Seeing these consumption habits as essential to the formation of modern French identity and economic life, this project will offer novel answers to two recurring questions in the historiography of the French Empire: What was the economic importance of empire in the emergence of modern France? To what extent did the French embrace the empire as part of their conception of French identity and culture?
She teaches a variety of classes on modern Europe, modern France and the French Empire, and historical methods, including classes on the Haitian Revolution, Nineteenth Century Europe, Hands on History, and the history of everyday life.
Wine, Sugar, and the Making of Modern France: Economic Crisis and the Racialization of French Citizenship, 1870-1910. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).
“Citizens of the Empire? Indentured Labor, Global Capitalism, and the Limits of French Republicanism in Colonial Guadeloupe.” Building the Atlantic Empires: Slavery, the State, and the Rise of Global Capitalism, 1500-1945, eds., John Donoghue and Evelyn Jennings (Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2015).
“Albums of Empires Past: Photography, Collective Memory, and the British Raj.” Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, 27/2015: 74-103.
“Apprendre l’Empire par le jeu. Enfants et familles françaises, début vingtième siècle,” (trans. Sylvie Kandé). CLIO. Femmes, Genre, Histoire. Objets et fabrication du genre. 40/2014: 69-87. Released in English as “Child’s Play? Colonial Commodities, Ephemera, and the Construction of the Greater French Family.” CLIO. Femmes, Genre, Histoire. Making Gender with Objects. 40/2014: 69-87.
“Creating Rural Citizens in Guadeloupe in the Early Third Republic,” Slavery & Abolition, 32, 2 (June 2011): 289-307.