Top Young Historians: 96 – J.P. Daughton


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

96: J.P. Daughton, 12-15-09

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Assistant Professor, Department of History, Stanford University, 2004-Present
Area of Research: Late Modern European History, with particular interest in nineteenth and twentieth-century France and the history of French colonialism and imperialism. Modern French political and cultural history; Colonialism and Imperialism; religious missionaries; French republicanism; French national identity; Indochina, Madagascar, Tahiti and the Marquesas.
Education: Ph.D., History, University of California, Berkeley, 2002
Major Publications: Daughton is the author of An Empire Divided: Religion, Republicanism, and the Making of French Colonialism, 1880-1914 (Oxford University Press, 2006; paperback, 2008); Winner of the George Louis Beer Prize, American Historical Association; Winner of the Alf Andrew Heggoy Book Prize, French Colonial Historical Society; A CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title of 2007. JP Daughton JPG
In God’s Empire: French Missionaries and the Modern World, co-edited with Owen White (a collection of thirteen articles, currently under review with Oxford University Press). Daughton is currently working on Imperial Hardships: The Politics of Suffering in the Rise and Fall of the French Empire (book length project in progress), and Humanity So Far Away: International Organizations, European Empires, and Modern Humanitarianism (book project in progress) Daughton is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including among others: “When Argentina Was ‘French’: Rethinking Cultural Politics and European Imperialism in Belle-Époque Buenos Aires,” Journal of Modern History 80 (December 2008): 831-864; “Documenting Colonial Violence: The International Campaign Against Forced Labor during the Interwar Years,” Revue de l’Histoire de la Shoah, No. 189 (October, 2008); “Recasting Pigneau de Béhaine: French Missionaries and the Politics of Colonial History,” in Nhung Tuyet Tran and Anthony Reid (eds.), Viet Nam: Borderless Histories (University of Wisconsin Press, 2006); “A Colonial Affair?: Dreyfus and the French Empire,” Historical Reflections / Réflexions historiques 31: 3 (Fall 2005): 469-84; “Kings of the Mountains: Mayréna, Missionaries, and French Colonial Divisions in 1880s Indochina,” Itinerario: International Journal on the History of European Expansion and Global Interaction 25: 3/4 (2001): 185-217; Reprinted in Eric Jennings (ed.), French Colonial Indochina (University of Nebraska Press, forthcoming), and “Sketches of the Poilu’s World: Trench Cartoons from the Great War,” in Douglas Mackaman and Michael Mays (eds.), World War I and the Cultures of Modernity (University Press of Mississippi, 2000). Awards: Daughton is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
George Louis Beer Prize (for best book on any aspect of European international history), American Historical Association, 2007;
Alf Andrew Heggoy Prize (for best book of the year), French Colonial Historical Society, 2007;
American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellowship, 2006-2007 (Declined);
Stanford Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowship, Stanford University, 2002-2004;
Pew Charitable Trust Postdoctoral Fellowship, Center on Religion and Democracy, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, 2002-2003 (Declined);
Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, 2001-2002;
Charlotte W. Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson Foundation, 2000-2001;
Fellowship and Travel Stipend, Institute for Global Conflict and Cooperation, University of California, San Diego, 2000-2001;
Mabelle McLeod Lewis Memorial Fellowship, 2000-2001 (Declined);
John Tracy Ellis Dissertation Prize, American Catholic Historical Association, 2000;
J. William Fulbright Foundation Fellowship, France, 1998-1999;
Dean’s Fellow in the Humanities, Stanford University, 2008-2010;
John Philip Coghlan Fellow, Stanford University, 2006-2008;
William and Flora Hewlett Endowment Fund Fellowship, Institute for International Studies, Stanford University, 2005;
Course Development Grant, Program in Ethics in Society, Stanford University, 2005;
Townsend Humanities Center Fellowship, U.C. Berkeley, 2000-2001 (Declined);
Humanities Research Grant, U.C. Berkeley, 2000-2001;
Graduate Division Fellowship, U.C. Berkeley, 1999-2000;
Henry Morse Stephens Memorial Travel Grant, U.C. Berkeley, 1999-2000;
Sidney Hellman Ehrman Travel Grant, U.C. Berkeley, 1999-2000;
Allan Sharlin Memorial Fellowship, Institute for International Studies, U.C. Berkeley, 1998-1999 Social Science Research Grant, U.C. Berkeley, 1997;
Research Grant, Center for German and European Studies, U.C. Berkeley, 1997;
Mellon Summer Research Grant, U.C. Berkeley, 1997;
Sather Fellowship, U.C. Berkeley, 1995-1996;
France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, annual conference funding for “Terror and the Making of Modern Europe: Transatlantic Perspectives on the History of Violence / Rencontres Transatlantiques sur l’Histoire de la Violence,” in collaboration with Sciences-Po (Paris), April 17-19, 2008 ($60,000);
Center for European Studies, funding for “Terror and the Making of Modern Europe: Transatlantic Perspectives on the History of Violence,” in collaboration with Sciences-Po (Paris), April 17-19, 2008 ($5,000);
Research Unit of the Division of Languages, Cultures, and Literature, for the French Culture Workshop, Stanford University, Annual Funding for 2005-06, 2006-07 ($10,000);
Mellon Workshop Fellowship, Stanford Humanities Center, for the French Culture Workshop, Annual Funding for 2003-04, 2004-05; 2006-08 ($8500 p.a.).
Additional Info:
Daughton has conducted archival research in France, Italy, and Tahiti, and he was a visiting fellow in the Faculty of History at the National University of Vietnam, Hanoi.
Co-Director, Stanford French Culture Workshop, Stanford Humanities Center, 2003-Present;
Book Review Advisory Panel, H-France, 2006-present.
Co-organizer, with Jean-François Sirinelli, Sciences-Po (Paris), of the conference, “Terror and the Making of Modern Europe: Transatlantic Perspectives on the History of Violence,” Stanford University, April 2008.

Personal Anecdote

The best thing about being an historian, in my opinion, is working in archives. The research for my book, An Empire Divided: Religion, Republicanism, and the Making of French Colonialism, 1880-1914, took me to almost twenty archives on four continents. They ranged from the high-ceilinged reading room of the Archives Nationales in Paris to a small table next to a photocopy machine in a cramped office of the Papeete, Tahiti archdiocese.

Non-historians often ask me what exactly I do at the archives. For me, it is a little like digging through the old papers left in someone’s long abandoned desk. An average box or bundle of documents – at least the ones I look at most – is often a hodgepodge of letters, handwritten notes, receipts, a calling card from some forgotten visitor, official reports, and faded photographs. Spending hours sifting through dead people’s refuse is not for everyone. But at no point in researching or writing do I feel more connected to my subject than in the archives.

There is something undeniably voyeuristic about archival work: reading letters never meant to be read by outsiders, seeing pictures not taken for posterity’s sake, perusing someone else’s secrets and exposing their plans. These remnants present great puzzles to be unraveled. Who were these people whose lives we now look into? How did they see their world, and how did they organize their vision of it? Trying to answer such questions inevitably requires looking for more and more sources, opening wider the cast of human characters, complicating the plot, drawing you in like a good mystery. The probing historian can discover things about historical figures – their motives, insecurities and contradictions – that they themselves may have denied or hidden from friends and loved ones.

Archives are also much more than repositories of documents. They are often themselves places where memories of the past come alive – sometimes in astonishing ways. One archivist, for example, at a religious archive in Paris assured me that, had the Catholic missionaries of the South Pacific failed to spread Christianity in the nineteenth century, the cannibal Polynesians would have eaten one another into extinction.

On another occasion, a French woman working in the departmental archives in Tahiti told me that she did not know why so many people wrote critically of colonialism when it was obvious that the Tahitians were happy to have gained the great cultural traditions of the French. While this struck me as a misguided assessment, I was equally surprised to have an octogenarian Vietnamese historian at the national archives in Hanoi wax nostalgic about the 1930s when he and his friends spoke French and devoured the latest books and music from Paris.

I have been in archives where I saw a rat scurry across the floor. I have unearthed worms gnawing through documents. I have seen people weep, sleep, and get angry in archives. I have even seen an archivist pass out from too much drinking at lunchtime. But I have never been bored in an archive. It is a place where Faulkner’s often quoted observation – “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – takes on real meaning.


By James Patrick Daughton

  • By examining the array of factors that shaped the civilizing mission, this book argues that what is often called French “colonial ideology” – the ideas behind, motivations for, and implementation of programs designed to
    An Empire Divided JPGreform and develop colonial societies – was in fact much less an extension of revolutionary republican values than a set of individual projects defined by degrees of dissent, debate, competition, and collaboration between people both at home and abroad. Differences of opinion over strategies of colonizing… forced administrators, missionaries, colonists, local inhabitants, and others to present, critique, and defend plans for expansion and control…. The “civilizing” policies ultimately adopted were neither strictly republican nor Catholic. Instead, they were shaped by the anxieties and aspirations of a variety of French men and women faced with the challenge of living with one another and ruling large indigenous populations. — James Patrick Daughton in “An Empire Divided”

About James Patrick Daughton

  • “Daughton’s work has important ramificatoins for both imperial and domestic French history…. Remarkably well-researched and well-written first book. Highly recommended.”– D.A. Harvey, CHOICE
  • “Thoroughly researched and eloquently written, Daughton’s comparative study of the complex, often contradictory, relationships between Republicans in France, the Church, and Catholic orders across the French Empire is one of a kind. His work also pays attention to critical issues of women and gender throughout, which renders this history all the more original.”– Julia Clancy-Smith, The University of Arizona
  • “Daughton’s treatment of the relations between colonial administrators and missionaries in the wake of conquest makes for fascinating and often gripping reading…. [A] richly documented and beautifully written book.” — Journal of Modern History
  • “This illuminating book explains how the political tensions between Catholics and Republicans that beset France were exported to its new colonies, with grave consequences for the subject populations. Covering a wide range of territories and examining new documents, J.P. Daughton paints a picture of a colonial enterprise tainted by hypocrisy and warped by the animosity between church and state.” — Ruth Harris, Oxford University, author of “Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age”
  • “Under the secular Republic, the cross and the tricolor could be waved in unison in the colonies, albeit with some tension. Daughton succeeds in writing missionaries back into empire and, mostly, at elucidating their complex and shifting roles as para-colonial actors with interests of their own. Nuanced and balanced, the book is also beautifully crafted.” — Eric Jennings, author of “Vichy in the Tropics”
  • “J.P. Daughton uses three deeply researched case studies to explore the enormously important and complicated role of Christian missionaries in the construction of the French empire. Daughton takes their religious motives seriously, while also showing how their tense collaboration with the imperial project led to significant changes in how they understood their work with indigenous peoples. An Empire Divided is broad in its sympathies, gracefully written, and full of dramatic incidents; it is a major contribution to the emerging literature on the history of European imperialism.” — Thomas Kselman, University of Notre Dame
  • “The Third Republic went at the work of empire-building with a civilizing zeal, but it was not alone in its sense of mission. The Roman Catholic Church had a missionary project of its own, which, as J.P. Daughton’s excellent volume reveals, it threw itself into with a passion and on a scale altogether unsuspected. Daughton’s is a history of competing missions, of how they interacted and changed one another with lasting consequences, not just for the French, but also for the colonial populations they ruled.” — Philip G. Nord, Princeton University
  • “An elegant study of the intersection of religion and empire…. It demonstrates how under the umbrella of the French empire, regional particularities were not just shaped by responses to local conditions and peoples, they were often formed by differences and conflicts among the French themselves.” — Patricia Lorcin, H-France Review

Posted on Sunday, December 14, 2008 at 3:39 AM

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