History, Money, Revolutions, Restaurants



Rebecca L. Spang

Ruth N. Halls Professor of History, Indiana University (c.v.)

Guggenheim Fellow, 2022-2023

Director, Liberal Arts + Management Program (on leave, 2022-2023)

Most Recent:

  • "The Debt Ceiling Shows the U.S. is Politically Bankrupt," The Atlantic (October 2021)

  • "China and the Money Question" (review essay), LARB

  • "How Money Works And What it Means" (review essay), The TLS (July 2021), pdf here

  • interviewed for and quoted in Jeanna Smialek and Ben Casselman, "A Great Inflation Redux?" New York Times (July 8, 2021).

  • "What Scaremongering about Inflation Gets Wrong," Washington Post (May 25, 2021)

  • "The Truth About Booms, Busts, and Bubbles" (review essay), TLS

  • chapter in Nicolas Barreyre and Nicolas Delalande, eds., A World of Public Debts: A Political History (publisher's preview)

Most Read:




I also tweet.


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. Today, as the COVID-19 pandemic closes so many indoor dining rooms, we are reminded that restaurants were always 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.

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:

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).