Alice L. Conklin

Professor of History
Affiliated Faculty in French and Francophone Studies

Alice L. Conklin received a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College in 1979, a M.A. in French Studies from NYU in 1984, and a Ph.D. in History from Princeton University in 1989. She teaches Modern European History, with a particular focus upon nineteenth and twentieth-century France and its empire. Her field specialties include history of European imperialism, the history of the modern social sciences, the history of the idea of race, and European women's and gender history. She has taught at OSU since 2004; previously she taught at the University of Rochester.

Alice's book, In the Museum of Man: Race, Anthropology, and Empire in France, 1850-1950, was released by Cornell University Press in 2013. It won the 2014 David H. Pinkney Prize for best book in French history from the Society for French Historical Studies as well as the 2014 Ohio Academy of History Publication Award. In the Museum of Man is the first full account of French anthropology as an academic discipline, with a special emphasis on the late Third Republic and Vichy. It demonstrates how entangled the scientific notions of race and culture were from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, and investigates the role that two generations of professionalizing anthropologists -- and their museums -- played in enabling modern racism and anti-racism. Alice thus offers new insight into the thorny relationship between science, society, and empire at the high water mark of French imperialism and European fascism. Related articles include "The Making of a Colonial Science: Ethnologie and Empire in Interwar France,"[in Russian] Ab Imperio 3 (2009), "L'ethnologie combatant de l'entre-deux-guerres," in Tzvetan Todorov, ed., Le siècle de Germaine Tillion (Seuil, 2007), "Skulls on Display: Scientific Racism in Paris' Museum of Man, 1920-1950," in Daniel Sherman, ed., Museums and Difference (Indiana, 2007), "Civil Society, Science, and Empire in Late Republican France: The Foundation of Paris' Museum of Man," Osiris 17 (July 2002).

Alice's first book, A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895-1930 (Stanford, 1997) examined the ways in which France's liberal Third Republic produced a consensus on the legitimacy of imperialism through the notion of a special "mission to civilize." A case study of how this mission worked on the ground in West Africa, A Mission to Civilizehighlighted the racist and republican elements that together influenced French policy-making. The book won the 1998 Book Prize of the Berskshire Conference of Women's Historians.  Her 1998 article on a related subject, "Colonialism and Human Rights, A Contradiction in Terms? The Case of French West Africa, 1895-1914," American Historical Review 103: 2 (April 1998), won the Koren Prize for the best article in French History from the Society for French Historical Studies.

Alice has also co-authored two books drawn from her teaching:  European Imperialism, 1830-1930: Climax and Contradictions, with Ian Christopher Fletcher (Houghton Mifflin, 1998), and a new history of modern France, France and Its Empire since 1870, with Sarah Fishman and Robert Zaretsky (Oxford, 2010). She has held research fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Fulbright Commission, the German Marshall Fund, and the Mershon Center for International Studies, as well as serving on the editorial board and the executive committee of the Society for French Historical Studies, and the Nominating Committee of the AHA.

Areas of Expertise
  • Modern European History

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