Rebecca L. Spang

Professor, Department of History

Director, Liberal Arts + Management Program (LAMP)

Director, Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies

Department of History

Campus
IU, IU Bloomington

Full Biography

I am a historian of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe who has published primarily on the interaction of politics, culture, and consumption. In my most recent research, I have been especially interested in money. My Stuff and Money in the Time of the French Revolution uses one of the most infamous examples of monetary innovationthe assignats (a currency initially defined by French revolutionaries as “circulating land”)—to write a new history of money and a new history of the French Revolution. It shows that revolutionary radicalization was driven by the ever-widening gap between political ideals and the experience of daily life and restores economics, in the broadest sense, to its rightful place at the heart of the Revolution (and hence of modern politics). 

My first book, The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture (also published by Harvard), won two major prizes and has been translated into Japanese, Portuguese, Turkish, and Modern Greek. It asks why and how “eating out” become a leisure activity and uses a broad range of sources (political pamphlets, medical treatises, travelers’ descriptions, plays, and images) to explore restaurants as a new form of semi-private sociability (and semi-public sensitivity) in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Deeply committed to archival research, I nonetheless find it crucial to maintain an active interest in cultural and critical theory. The mutual illumination of “theory” and “practice” often informs my teaching, as well, at both undergraduate and graduate level.

Since January 2017, I have served as Director of the Liberal Arts + Management Program (LAMP), a nationally recognized program that allows undergraduates to combine the benefits of a Liberal Arts degree with core business competencies gained through the Kelley School of Business. The LAMP Honors Certificate Program is open (by application) to all qualified students in the College, and is a great addition to a History major!

I have directed the Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies at Indiana University since 2013 (Acting Director, 2011-2012) and edit its journal, The Workshop

Honors and Awards

  • Enlightened Economist "Book of the Year" (2016) for Stuff and Money in the Time of the French Revolution (citation)
  • Gottschalk Prize for best book in eighteenth-century studies, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (2016) for Stuff and Money
  • Financial Times "Best Books of the Year" (2015) for Stuff and Money
  • Choice "Outstanding Academic Title" (2015) for Stuff and Money
  • Indiana University Trustees' Teaching Award (2009)
  • Gottschalk Prize for best book in eighteenth-century studies, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (2001) for Invention of the Restaurant
  • Thomas J. Wilson Prize for best first book, Harvard University Press
  • Michigan Society of Fellows, 1993-1996
  • Derek Bok Prize for excellence in teaching (1992)

Research Interests

  • cultural/social/economic theory
  • Money, finance, banking
  • France, 1715-present

Education

  • B.A. at Harvard University, 1984
  • M.A. at Cornell University, 1988
  • Ph.D. at Cornell University, 1993

Publications

Books

  • Stuff and Money in the Time of the French Revolution.  Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015.
  • The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000; translated into Japanese (2002), Portuguese (2003), Modern Greek (2006), and Trurkish (2007).

Articles

  • "The Rise of Inflation," Cabinet Magazine, a Quarterly of Art and Culture 50  (summer 2013), 95-100.
  • "Money, Money, Money" (Review Essay), History Workshop Journal 69 (spring 2010), 225-233.
  • "Self, Field, Myth: What We Will Have Been,"H-France Salon 1:1 (November 2009), 24-32.
  • "The Ghost of Law: Speculating on Money, Memory, and Mississippi in the French Constituent Assembly." Historical Reflections/Réflexions historiques special issue on "Money and the Enlightenment" 31:1 (winter 2005), 3-25.
  • "Paradigms and Paranoia: How Modern is the French Revolution?" (Review Essay), American Historical Review 108:1 (February 2003), 119-147.