Top Young Historians: 71 – Jeffrey H. Jackson


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

71: Jeffrey H. Jackson, 10-22-07

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Associate Professor of History, Rhodes College, 2007-present
Area of Research: French History, European History, History of Music
Education: Doctor of Philosophy in History, University of Rochester, May 1999
Major Publications: Jackson is the author of Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris (Duke University Press, 2003), which now is in its second printing and was a finalist for an award Jeffrey H. Jackson JPG for Best Research in Recorded Jazz from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections, 2004. Portions of Making Jazz French have been reprinted in: Carl J. Guarneri, ed., America Compared: American History in International Perspective, 2nd edition; Humanities: The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities (March/April, 2005); Music and History: Bridging the Disciplines, co-editor and contributor (University Press of Mississippi, 2005).
Jackson is the co-editor of Music and History: Bridging the Disciplines (2005) He is currently working on the following book manuscripts Paris Under Water: How Paris Survived the Great Flood of 1910, Safe Savages: France and African-Americans at the Height of the Colonial Project, and The Underground Reader: Sources in the Trans-Atlantic Counterculture (with Robert Francis Saxe).
Jackson is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles and reviews including: “Artistic Community and Urban Development in 1920s Montmartre,” French Politics, Culture, and Society 24 (Summer 2006)
“Making Jazz French: The Reception of Jazz Music in Paris, 1927-1934,” French Historical Studies 25 (Winter 2002). This article won the 2002 Charles R. Bailey Memorial Prize for Best Article from the New York State Association of European Historians; “Music-Halls and the Assimilation of Jazz in 1920s Paris,” Journal of Popular Culture 32 (Fall 2000), and “Making Enemies: Jazz in Interwar Paris,” French Cultural Studies 10 (June 1999) among others.
Awards: Jackson is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Fellow-in-Residence, Columbia Institute for Scholars at Reid Hall, Paris, Fall 2007;
Nominated for Clarence Day Award for Excellence in Teaching, Rhodes College, 2007;
Spence Wilson International Travel Grant, Rhodes College, 2007;
Charles R. Bailey Memorial Prize for Best Article, New York State Association of European Historians, 2002;
Faculty Development Endowment Grants ($5000), Rhodes College, Summer 2002, Summer 2004, Summer 2006;
National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, 2000;
Grant from the Sinfonia Foundation, 2000;
Bernadotte E. Schmitt Grant, American Historical Association, 1999;
Dexter Perkins Prize, Department of History, University of Rochester, 1998;
Sanford Elwitt Memorial Prize, Department of History, University of Rochester, 1997;
Salamone Prize, Department of History, University of Rochester, 1996;
Department Fellowship, Department of History, University of Rochester, 1994-1998.
Additional Info:
Jackson was named a Fellow-in-Residence at the Columbia University Institute for Scholars at Reid Hall in Paris for Fall 2007. He is a consultant for the PBS documentary “Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story” currently in production. He has previously been a lecturer at the Eastman School of Music and at State University of New York College at Geneseo.
For more information about Jackson’s research, see his website:

Personal Anecdote

I think I can trace much of my current interest in the urban history of Paris to one precise moment.

I arrived in the city for the first time as a graduate student just beginning my dissertation research. The Eurostar brought me from London to Gare du Nord, and I immediately went underground to the Metro. So I didn’t really see the city itself until I climbed the steps from the Metro station in my new neighborhood. When I did, I looked around, almost stunned (and somewhat naive), and thought, “Hey, this looks just like Paris!” The buildings and streets around me all looked just liked the classic images I had seen in movies and photographs. Some part of me had expected that the reality wouldn’t live up to the image, but now I saw it with my own eyes.

That sense of wonder lasted a long time — it still does in many ways. But as my knowledge of the city has deepened over the last decade, my feelings about it have become much more complex.

I walked all over the city on that first stay and in the many visits that have followed, and gained an intimate, ground-level feel for the urban space. Each day was the discovery of another little corner. Now I have my favorite restaurants, parks, and shops, even my favorite streets. I still love to go to Paris because it allows me to live a different kind of life: beautiful walks, wonderful food, a different sense of time and place.

But sometimes Paris pushes me away too. At its worst, Paris can feel big, noisy, dirty, and crowded. Enduring the summer heat in an eighteenth century building can be oppressive. And while my French is very good, there are always nuances in the language that escape me. Language slips sometimes make for a lonely feeling because it means that there is some part of my world that eludes me, a missing connection between me and my neighbors.

And there are still parts of the city where I always get disoriented. In fact, when I stepped into the street on that first trip, I immediately got lost looking for my apartment. With no knowledge of the city at that point, my fascination quickly turned to worry.

But I was found by the Parisians themselves. I asked two women pushing strollers for directions to the cafe where I was to meet my landlord. They said they thought it was further down the street, and I headed off to find it. But a few seconds later, one of them came chasing after me. “Monsieur! Monsieur!” she called out. The cafe was actually the other way, they realized, and they had gone out of their way to help me.

From then on, I’ve always found a welcome in Paris every time I visit. Even in those moments when Paris pushes me away, it also pulls me back. And I only want to work harder to know it better.


By Jeffrey H. Jackson

  • In describing this process of “making jazz French,” I am not claiming that French musicians transformed jazz as a musical form into something substantially different from what it was in the United States, nor am Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris JPG I suggesting that a musically distinct kind of “French jazz” existed independent of jazz in the United States. Rather, what I aim to show is that this jazz community altered the meaning and perception of jazz in France. They did so by arguing that it was no longer a foreign music, but instead one that could be played by French musicians without threat or hypocrisy. They created a set of institutions that brought jazz into French musical culture because they believed it was something every French person could appreciate. Even more boldly, some contended that jazz echoed various aspects of a presumed French national character. Musicians who played French chansons in a jazz style suggested that jazz was not a break with the past but merely a way to update France’s heritage while simultaneously remaining true to it. — Jeffrey H. Jackson in “Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris” (Duke University Press, 2003)”

About Jeffrey H. Jackson

  • “Jeffrey H. Jackson’s work is unique in providing a more detailed history of jazz in interwar France than anything yet in print (certainly in English). Jackson offers a new, rather unusual perspective, concentrating on the ways jazz was integrated into national practices and traditions, rather than portraying it as simply a foreign intrusion into national life. This is a very rich approach to cultural history, offering a far more complex and nuanced understanding of the process of trans-Atlantic cultural interchange than top-down perspectives.” — Tyler Stovall, coeditor of “The Color of Liberty: Histories of Race in France” reviewing “Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris”
  • “This lively and innovative book views jazz through the prism of contemporary ideas about ‘blackness’ and the Americanization of Europe’s economy and culture to explore the relationship between culture, race, and national identity in twentieth-century France. Jeffrey H. Jackson reveals a complex interplay of cultural and social forces that stretches from across the Atlantic to the trenches of World War I to the colonies of la plus grande France.” — Alice Conklin, author of “A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895-1930” reviewing “Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris”
  • “A history that reads like a good story, this new book by Jeffrey H. Jackson illumines the multiple reactions to jazz in France, ranging from enthusiasm and fascination to fear and disgust. It also vividly recaptures the broad cultural context and above all succeeds in demonstrating the importance of jazz for the ongoing debate about French national identity and modernity.” — Charles Rearick, author of The French in Love and War: Popular Culture in the Era of the World Wars reviewing “Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris”
  • “This is an outstanding little book—a highly readable history of jazz in interwar Paris and a brilliant case study of French cosmopolitanism. . . . Entertaining, informative, authoritative, and broad in scope, Jackson’s study will appeal to readers of varied interests. . . .” — Library Journal (Starred Review) reviewing “Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris”
  • “[A]n enjoyable approach to jazz on the European scene. . . . [A] topnotch reading experience, one that is both entertaining and informative.” — Lee Prosser, reviewing “Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris”
  • “[A] welcome addition to the burgeoning field of studies of the impact of jazz in France. . . . Based on careful archival investigation, as well as on very solid and wide-ranging knowledge of existing work, this account includes much new material and is informed by a considerable originality of approach. ” — Colin Nettelbeck, H-France Book Reviews reviewing “Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris” reviewing “Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris”
  • “In the first half of his book, Jackson provides a fresh analysis of the context of the introduction of jazz in Paris and, more significantly, how and why jazz symbolized modern life to the interwar French. . . . [T]he larger importance of Jackson’s study is as a corrective: interwar xenophobia and integral nationalism were not the only cultural responses to modernity and the interwar crises in France. Rather the almost mythic French cosmopolitan spirit also flourished during these troubled times, a useful reminder in light of horrors of the 1940s.” — Brett Berliner, L’Esprit Créateur reviewing “Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris”
  • “[M]akes an important contribution to our understanding of how and why jazz was adopted and adapted by the French, investigating the cultural context in which this integration was operated. The whole is underpinned by thorough scholarly research evident in the numerous notes.” — Jacques Protat, Review of Popular Music reviewing “Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris”
  • “Jackson makes an important contribution to historical studies in complicating understandings of French cultural nationalism between two world wars. . . . [C]ompelling.” — Jody Blake, American Historical Review reviewing “Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris”
  • “Making Jazz French is a valuable exploration of the cultural history of modern France, one that should especially inspire those interested in global perspectives on French history and culture.” — Tyler Stovall, The Historian reviewing “Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris”
  • “Jackson’s interesting . . . work traces how a new ‘cabaret culture’ replaced big dancehalls, examines the effect recording technology had on the spread of jazz, and shows how, by the end of the 30s, the indefatigable French had managed to incorporate jazz into a new idea of a national cultural tradition.” — Steven Poole, The Guardian reviewing “Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris”
  • “[A]significant addition to the history of jazz per se. Along with other recent literature, then, it demonstrates that it is impossible to understand jazz, which is often called ‘America’s music,’ without paying attention to jazz outside the US. . . . The book is written clearly and engagingly.” — Paul Austerlitz, Journal of Popular Music Studies reviewing “Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris”
  • “Jackson’s fine study opens the door to such a rethinking of the history of mass culture in the twentieth century and suggests how and why we might look at France in ways that shake us from the numbing predicatability of explaining the failures of the Popular Front and the rise of the Vichy government.” — Vanessa R. Schwartz, Journal of Modern History reviewing “Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris”
  • I took an independent study with Prof. Jackson called “Paris: Myth and Reality”, in which we discussed the poltical, social, and cultural history of Paris. Working with Prof. Jackson has been one of the high points of my four years at Rhodes – he is extremely knowledgeable about his field and passionate about sharing his knowledge with students. His history classes are discussion based, interdisciplinary, and meaningful: he does not focus only on names, dates, and random facts, but on developing an understanding of how the history of Europe is central to modern global politics and society. — JoBeth Campbell, Rhodes Class of 2008
  • Prof. Jackson’s direction and guidance inside and outside the classroom was a formative part of my experience at Rhodes, and his lasting commitment to his students has enhanced their scholarly endeavors and their intellectual life.
    To summarize my appreciation for Professor Jackson pithily, I would say this: when I walked into his History 101 class in the spring of my freshman year, I had already decided to study history; and by the time I left his course, I had the wherewithal to study it well. His pedagogical and methodological standards, his demanding expectations, and his determination to make his students more thoughtful and more articulate enriched my time at Rhodes immeasurably.
    During my sophomore year, Professor Jackson approached me about doing a Directed Inquiry centered on a mutual interest of ours: urban history. The fact that he regarded me as capable and committed enough to handle the course was flattering enough, but what struck me most—and, indeed, what motivated me to make the most of the opportunity—was the spirit of mutual investigation that guided the semester’s work. His willingness to trust me as a partner in thinking through the large, complicated, and important issues we explored empowered me as a researcher, writer, and thinker. The course was a formative experience in the life of a young student.
    Out of that Directed Inquiry grew a research paper that allowed me to apply my budding skills in a direct and meaningful way. My study of the removal of New Orleans’ Canal St. Streetcar line in 1964 put into consequential practice the approaches Professor Jackson had emboldened me to critique and discuss. In sifting through primary documents, interviewing community activists, and contextualizing the remarkable story of the streetcar, I gained the authentic and applicable experience of an historian. Throughout my writing, Professor Jackson challenged me, supported me, and pulled more out of my pen than I could have thought possible at the project’s outset.
    During my junior and senior years, Professor Jackson served as the primary advisor for my honor’s thesis. The project was the culmination of everything he and I had studied and everything he had prepared me for, and I have his dedication to thank for its success. The countless hours he and I spent together discussing primary and secondary materials, improving drafts of various chapters, and focusing the text’s arguments crystallized my academic experience at Rhodes.
    Simply put, Professor Jackson was a deeply committed instructor, mentor, critic, and advocate—and what greater can be said of any teacher? My ambition was embraced, my talent supported, and my work validated. Professor Jackson challenged and enabled me to be the best scholar I could, and his confidence and care have earned him my continuing admiration. —
    Robert Edgecombe, Former Student, Rhodes College

Posted on Sunday, October 21, 2007 at 9:31 PM

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