Department of History

Rebecca Spang

  • Associate Professor, Department of History
  • Director, Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies


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

Contact Information

Ballantine Hall, Rm. 711
(812) 855-2437


Rebecca Spang

I am a historian of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe who has concentrated primarily on the interaction of culture, politics, and consumption. My first book, The Invention of the Restaurant, won two major prizes and has been translated into Japanese and Portuguese. Asking a deceptively naïve-seeming question—How did "eating out" become an enjoyable leisure activity?—the book used political pamphlets and medical treatises, travelers' descriptions and legal documents to explore restaurants as a new form of semi-private sociability (and semi-public sensitivity) in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Paris.

My research seems to cluster around basic nouns: having considered "food," I am now interested in "money." My current book project (working title: "Stuff and Money in the Time of the French Revolution") treats the economic and psychic life of symbols—especially that mass-produced symbol known as money. Economic theory and policy are relevant to this study, but I am more especially interested in how money is literally made and used.

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.

I am a member of the History Workshop Journal Editorial Collective and of the Bloomington Faculty Council.  If you would like to know more about the Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies, please see its website.

Selected Awards

  • Indiana University Trustees' Teaching Award (2009)
  • Gottschalk Prize for best book in eighteenth-century studies, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (2001)
  • 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 history and social/economic theory
  • Modern Europe
  • France, 1715-present

Courses Recently Taught

Publication Highlights


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).


"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.

"Pulling a Rabbit out of a Cat," Cabinet, A Quarterly of Art and Culture 35 (fall 2009), 7-11.

"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.

"First Performances: Staging Memories of the February Revolution," in Axel Körner, ed., 1848: A European Revolution? London: Macmillan, 2000, 164-184.