Rebecca Spang

Associate Professor of History

Indiana University, Bloomington

Professor Spang is an historian of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe who has concentrated primarily on the interaction of politics, culture, and consumption. In her most recent research, she has been especially interested in money. My Stuff and Money in the Time of the French Revolution (due to be published by Harvard University press in January 2015) uses one of the most infamous examples of monetary innovation, the 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).

Spang's 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, Spang nonetheless finds 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.

I am a member of the History Workshop Journal Editorial Collective and Secretary of the Bloomington Faculty Council.