In both my teaching and scholarship, my main focus has been on Early Modern Europe, with a research interest in France. And within this field I have largely hewed to one central theme: the formation of the centralized state, which arguably was most and earliest apparent in France, along with the cultural and social aspects of this particular political development. This reflects an interest, not only in Europe from the Renaissance to the Revolution, but also in the political and cultural history of other regions and other times insofar as the emergence of the nation-state is clearly one of the main themes of global history in the last half millennium. My research has been a continuous exploration of the various ramifications of political centralization, which I analyzed in the most sustained fashion in my first book, Public Life in Toulouse, 1463-1789; and which I subsequently examined in relationship to forms of public display in The Ceremonial City. Currently, I am completing a book on how intellectuals and writers both served and resisted the emerging political culture of “absolutism” during the crucial period of its development, the early seventeenth century.
My teaching largely reflects these interests, as well as a desire to convey to students some of the most exciting aspects of Early Modern European History—a field that has attracted some of the best and most imaginative historians of our time. I routinely offer courses on “The Old Regime and the French Revolution,” “Religion, Magic and Witchcraft,” “Culture and Society in Early Modern Europe,” and “Historical Methodology.”