Mary Lewis is Robert Walton Goelet Professor of French History at Harvard and Affiliated Faculty at the Harvard Law School. Her current research interests center around international and imperial history, with particular attention paid to the connections between international relations and social or economic life. In 2015-16, she was a Frederick Burkhardt Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute, where she began work on a new book project, "The First French Decolonization: A New History of 19th-century Empire." She has taught courses on comparative empires, the Modern Mediterranean, Modern France and its Colonial Empire, European capitalism, and nation- and state-building in the modern era, as well as graduate seminars on method.
Lewis was co-president of the Society for French Historical Studies in 2012-13.
The cover of my most recent book, Divided Rule: Sovereignty and Empire in French Tunisia, 1881-1938, features caricaturist Candide's 1881 rendering of the French invasion of Tunisia. In it, the Bey of Tunis sits on the shore, and looks to Italy for help. This cartoon encapsulates the sovereignty problem the French encountered upon invading Tunisia: the bey had longstanding agreements with other European powers, and these powers would continue to broker influence in the protectorate long after the French invasion, a situation that residents of Tunisia learned to exploit, and that in turn affected how French authorities would attempt to rule over the protectorate.
"[I]mpressively displays the historian’s art." Kenneth Perkins, American Historical Review.
"Mary Lewis’s great accomplishment is to have produced a work that challenges us to think differently about how empires are constructed, about how they interact, and about how their peoples shaped the forms of governance that emerged within them." - Martin Thomas, H-Diplo Forum
"This meticulously researched work . . . provides a meaningful contribution to the study of both modern European colonialism and North African history. Highly recommended."—M. Gershovich Choice