History, Money, Revolutions, Restaurants

Rebecca L. Spang

Distinguished Professor of History, Indiana University (c.v.)

Dean (Interim), Hutton Honors College

Guggenheim Fellow, 2022-2023

2023 National Fellow, New America

Spring-Summer 2023:

Recent Publications:

Most Read:

I can also be found on BlueSky and on LinkedIn.

The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture (Harvard University Press, 2000; new ed. 2020)  explains how "eating out" became an enjoyable leisure activity. It begins in the 1760s, when a restaurant was not a place to eat but a thing to eat: a quasi-medicinal bouillon essential to eighteenth-century "nouvelle cuisine." From restoratives to Restoration, the book establishes the restaurant as the first public place where people went to be private. When many indoor dining rooms closed at the beginning of the  COVID-19 pandemic, we were reminded that restaurants have always been about sharing space with strangers. The food was an excuse. Winner of the  Thomas J. Wilson Prize of Harvard University Press and of ASEC's Gottschalk Prize, Invention of the Restaurant was reviewed in venues ranging from Radical Philosophy and Playboy to the New York Times and World Commodity Report. [more]

Sighted and Cited In:
Interview with Kayte Young for Earth Eats (50 minutes), here.

Anya von Bremzen, National Dish: Around the World in Search of  Food, History, and the Meaning of Home (Penguin, 2023).

Yasmin Tayag, "Outdoor Dining is Doomed," The Atlantic (January 31, 2023), here.

Sarah Holder, "Did the Pandemic Kill Restaurant Menus?" Bloomberg City Lab (June 18, 2021). 

Aaron Timms, "Salt, Fat, Acid, Defeat: The Restaurant Before-After Covid," n + 1 Magazine (Dec. 31, 2020), here

Amanda Michiko Shigihara, "Postmodern Life, Restaurants, and COVID-19," Contexts: Sociology for the Public 19:4 (Nov. 2020), here.

Stuff and Money in the Time of the French Revolution (Harvard University Press, 2015) offers a new history of money and a new history of the French Revolution. It shows money to be subject to the same slippages between policies and practice, intentions and outcomes, as other human inventions and argues that revolutionary radicalization was driven by an ever-widening gap between political ideals and the realities of daily life. The book restores economics, in the broadest sense, to its rightful place at the center of the Revolution and hence to that of modern politics. Winner of the Gottschalk Prize awarded by ASECS, it was also named one of the best history books of 2015 by the Financial Times; an "Outstanding Academic Title" by Choice; and Diane Coyle's Enlightened Economist "Book of the Year." [more]

Sighted and cited in:

Jakob Feinig, Moral Economies of Money: Politics and the Monetary Constitution of Society (Stanford University Press, 2022).

Elizabeth A. Bond, The Writing Public: Participatory Knowledge Production in Enlightenment France (Cornell University Press, 2021).

Brian Gettler, Colonialism's Currency: Money, State and First Nations in Canada (McGill-Queens University Press, 2020). 

Finn Brunton, Digital Cash (Princeton, 2019); and "Trading Atoms for Bits: the Long History of Digital Currencies," Cabinet February 2021.

Leor Halevi, Modern Things on Trial: Islam's Global and Material Transformation (Columbia, 2019).

Anne Fleming, "Legal History as Economic History," Oxford Handbook of Legal History (Oxford, 2018).