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Lauren Clay

Associate Professor of History

Lauren R. Clay is an historian of Old Regime and revolutionary France and its empire, with particular interests in urban cultural and civic life and the emergence of a commercially oriented society. Her book Stagestruck: The Business of Theater in Eighteenth-Century France and Its Colonies (Cornell University Press, 2013) examines the establishment of professional public theaters in cities throughout France and the French empire during the prerevolutionary era. Stagestruck was awarded Honorable Mention for the 2014 Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History by the American Society for Theatre Research and was named a finalist for the 2013 George Freedley Memorial Award, for exceptional scholarship examining live theatre or performance, awarded by the Theatre Library Association. Her article “Provincial Actors, the Comédie-Française, and the Business of Performing in Eighteenth-Century France,” in Eighteenth-Century Studies (2005) was the co-winner of the 2006-2007 James Clifford Prize, awarded by the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.  She has a chapter on Voltaire’s fortunes at the box office forthcoming in Databases, Revenues, & Repertory: The French Stage Online, 1680-1793/Données, recettes et répertoire. La scène en ligne (XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles), Eds. Sylvaine Guyot and Jeffrey S. Ravel (MIT Press, 2020).   

Clay’s work has also appeared in The Journal of Modern History, Slavery & Abolition, and The Oxford Handbook of the French Revolution.  Currently, she is writing about the debate over the legality of the slave trade during the early French Revolution.

Clay completed her PhD in history at the University of Pennsylvania.  Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, she spent several years teaching at Texas A&M University. Her scholarship has been supported by grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and the Fulbright Program. She teaches courses on the history of early modern France, the economic history of the eighteenth century, revolutions in the modern world, European imperialism, and the history of Paris. She is a past Co-President of the Society for French Historical Studies.