Photo of Paul Cheney
Paul Cheney Senior Fellow, Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, the College Office: Social Science Research Building, room 501
Mailbox 34
Phone: (773) 702-2631 Email Interests:

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

Professor of European History, Fundamentals, and the College

Columbia University, PhD '02



Paul Cheney is an historian of Europe with a specialization in old regime France and its colonial empire. 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.

The unifying element of Professor Cheney’s work is an interest in early modern capitalism, and in particular the problem of how modern social and political forms gestated within traditional society. Old regime France serves as an excellent case study in this problem because of the way in which it combined real economic dynamism with deep-seated political and social impediments to growth. He addresses France’s integration into a globalized early modern economy in a methodology diverse way, drawing on intellectual, economic, and social history. His first book, Revolutionary Commerce: Globalization in the French Monarchy (Harvard University Press, 2010), examined how French philosophes, merchants, and administrators understood the adaptability of the French monarchy to the modernizing forces of primitive globalization. Currently, he is working on a second book entitled, Cul de Sac: Patrimony, Capitalism, and Slavery in French Saint-Domingue (University of Chicago Press, 2017), a micro-history of one plantation in France’s richest colony. He has published in such journals as The William and Mary QuarterlyPast & PresentDix-Huitième siècle, and Les Annales historiques de la révolution française.


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, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures

  • Revolutionary Culture in Eighteenth-Century France and America, with Eric Slauter, Department of English

Recent Research / Recent Publications

Selected Articles
Cover of book "Cul de Sac"