Paul Cheney

Associate Professor of European History
PhD 2002 Columbia University

Social Science Research Bldg., room 517 – Office
(773) 702-2631 – Office telephone
(773) 702-7550 – Fax

Mailing Address

The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 E. 59th Street, Mailbox 116
Chicago, IL 60637

Field Specialties

French history; the Enlightenment; the French Revolution; the Atlantic world; history of political thought; and early modern capitalism.


Paul Cheney is an historian of Europe with a specialization in eighteenth-century France. Before beginning his PhD training in history at Columbia University, he studied political economy at the New School for Social Research. He has taught at Columbia University, the European College of Liberal Arts (Berlin), and the Queen's University of Belfast.

Broadly, his field of interest is the contextual study of social and political thought. In his recent work, he explores how eighteenth-century writers approached what is now termed globalization. How, they asked, was the outward extension of European commerce—particularly into the periphery of its Atlantic colonial establishments—inwardly transforming the material, cultural, and political world of Europe?

He is currently at work on two projects: a series of articles on scientific and administrative practices in the French Antilles; and a micro-history of plantation life in eighteenth-century Saint-Domingue (present day Haiti).



Revolutionary Commerce: Globalization and the French Monarchy (Harvard University Press, 2010)

Cul de Sac: Plantation Life in Eighteenth-Century Saint Domingue (under contract, University of Chicago Press)

Selected Articles

"La révolution française à l'heure du Global Turn," (with Alan Forrest, Lynn Hunt, Mathias Middel, and Karine Rance), Annales historiques de la Révolution française no374 (4/2013) Décembre 2013 [link requires subscription access].

The Colonial Machine Dismantled: Knowledge and Empire in the French Atlantic” (with Loïc Charles), Past and Present 219 (May 2013). [link requires subscription access]

A Colonial Cul de Sac: Plantation Life in Wartime Saint-Domingue, 1775-1783, Radical History Review,” special issue Haitian Lives /Global Perspectives 115 (Winter 2013), pp. 45-54 [link requires subscription access].

A False Dawn for Enlightenment Cosmopolitanism? Franco-American Trade during the American War of Independence," The William and Mary Quarterly, third series, vol. LXIII (July 2006), pp. 459-484. [Link requires subscription access].

“L’Histoire du commerce,” in Le Cercle de Vincent de Gournay : savoirs économiques et pratiques administratives en France au milieu du xviii siècle, eds. Loïc Charles, Frédéric Lefebvre and Christine Théré (INED: 2011): 281-302.

"Finances, Philosophical History and the 'Empire of Climate': Enlightenment Historiography and Political Economy," Historical Reflections 31, no. 1 (2005), pp. 141-67 [link requires subscription access].

"Les économistes français et l'image de l'Amérique: l'essor du commerce transatlantique et l'effondrement du 'gouvernement féodal,'" Dix-huitième siècle 33 (2001), pp. 229-243.

"Constitution and Economy in David Hume's Enlightenment," in David Hume's Political Economy, eds. Margaret Schabas and Carl Wennerlind (London: Routledge, 2008).

"lumières écossaises," Dictionnaire électronique Montesquieu [En ligne].

Recent Graduate Courses

  • The French Revolution
  • Old Regime France
  • Atlantic Worlds, c. 1700-1800
  • Political Economy and the Invention of Society, c. 1680-1830
  • Montesquieu and the Enlightenment (with Robert Morrissey, Romance Languages and Literature)
  • Revolutionary Culture in Eighteenth-Century France and America (with Eric Slauter, Department of English)


“The French Revolution,” radio interview on WGN Chicago, Extension 720, March 22, 2011 [link to audio file]