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Dan Edelstein works for the most part on eighteenth-century France, with research interests at the crossroads of literature, history, political theory, and digital humanities. His first book, The Terror of Natural Right: Republicanism, the Cult of Nature, and the French Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 2009) examines how liberal natural right theories, classical republicanism, and the myth of the golden age became fused in eighteenth-century political culture, only to emerge as a violent ideology during the Terror. This book won the 2009 Oscar Kenshur Book Prize.

Edelstein's second book entitled The Enlightenment: A Genealogy (University of Chicago Press, 2010) explores how the idea of an Enlightenment emerged in French academic circles around the 1720's. In addition, he has published articles on such topics as the Encyclopédie, antiquarianism, Orientalism, the Idéologues, political authority, and structuralism, as well as on writers including Jean-Sylvain Bailly, Balzac, Roland Barthes, Lévi-Strauss, Michelet, Mallarmé, Georges Sorel, Emmerich de Vattel, and Voltaire.

He is currently working on three main projects: A comparative study of revolutionary authority; natural right theory in the French Enlightenment and Revolution; and Mapping the Republic of Letters. The first is a book-length project examining how (and when) "revolution" became in and of itself a means of justifying revolutionary action. Stretching from the sixteenth century to the present, it focuses on the appearance and evolution of revolutionary "myths" (drawing on Georges Sorel's definition of the term). The second project investigates how the philosophes developed a current of natural right theory that was distinct from the philosophical-jurisprudential tradition. A version of this research ("Enlightenment Rights Talk") is forthcoming in the Journal of Modern History. The third project involves mapping the republic of letters along with a number of colleagues at Stanford and around the world. One of the primary aims of this large-scale digital humanities project is to map the correspondence networks of major intellectual figures. For more information, visit Mapping the Republic of Letters.

Key works

"Enlightenment Rights Talk," Journal of Modern History (forthcoming 2014)

"To Quote or Not to Quote: Citation Strategies in the Encyclopédie" with Robert Morrissey and Glenn Roe, Journal of the History of Ideas 74, no. 2 (2013): 213-36

"Do We Want a Revolution Without Revolution? Reflections on Political Authority," French Historical Studies 35, no. 2 (2012): 269-89

"The Classical Turn in Enlightenment Studies," Modern Intellectual History 9, no. 1 (2012): 61-71

University of Chicago Press, 2010

The Super-Enlightenment: Daring to Know Too Much. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2010

The Terror of Natural Right: Republicanism, the Cult of Nature, and the French Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009

"War and Terror: The Law of Nations from Grotius to the French Revolution," French Historical Studies, 31.2, Special Issue on “War, Culture, and Society,” ed. David A. Bell and Martha Hanna (forthcoming, Spring 2008): 229-62

"The Birth of Ideology from the Spirit of Myth: Georges Sorel among the Idéologues", in The Re-enchantement of the World: Secular Magic in a Rational Age. Eds. Joshua Landy and Michael Saler. Stanford University Press, 2008

Myth and Modernity, ed. Dan Edelstein and Bettina Lerner, Special Issue of Yale French Studies, 111 (2007)

"Hostis Humani Generis: Devils, Natural Right, Terror, and the French Revolution," Telos: A Quarterly Journal of Critical Thought, 141 (2007): 57-81

Prof. Edelstein in the News

June 30, 2015
Reflecting on his mentor's tough love teaching, Stanford French professor Dan Edelstein questions...
June 24, 2015
Looking for something new to read this summer? Below is a list of suggested reading from Stanford...
February 12, 2014
An editorial by Dan Edelstein, a Professor of French and Italian at Stanford, discussing why...
January 17, 2014
By applying theories and methods from the field of religious studies to Stanford culture, a new...
December 1, 2013
Noting how the availability of digital technologies presents historians with new ways to explore...
October 31, 2013
The story quotes Richard Shaw, dean of admission and financial aid; Franco Moretti, professor of...
June 10, 2013
An interdisciplinary freshman course shows students how networking predates Facebook by hundreds,...
November 2, 2011
If you feel overwhelmed by social media, you're hardly the first. An avalanche of new forms of...
October 15, 2011
The concept of a flexible core curriculum, as outlined by Stanford French and Italian scholar Dan...
June 6, 2011
Dan Edelstein, Associate Professor of French and Italian, comments on Stanford's multimedia project...
January 21, 2011
Assistant professor of French and Italian Dan Edelstein discusses the importance of electives.
January 5, 2011
The Stanford Review blog interviews Associate Professor of French and Italian Dan Edelstein.
October 14, 2010
Stanford Assistant Professor of French & Italian, Dan Edelstein, argues that the humanities...
May 27, 2010
San Jose Mercury News
May 14, 2010
When Stanford profs and students jam with their band, classics get a soulful spin.
May 12, 2010
The profound ambiguity of radicalism, and indeed of fervent commitment to the Enlightenment, is the...
May 5, 2010
Department of French and Italian professor Robert Harrison, assistant professor Daniel Edelstein,...
April 2, 2010
Stanford Professor Dan Edelstein discusses the value of the humanities for teaching and innovation.
March 19, 2010
French professor Dan Edelstein argues that a few new liberal arts programs benefit students by...
February 16, 2010
Professor Dan Edelstein discusses the importance of foreign language literature and mentions a new...
December 21, 2009
Professors Dan Edelstein and Paula Findlen use computers to map letters exchanged during the...
November 25, 2009
Dan Edelstein, assistant professor of French and author of The Terror of Natural Right:...
June 2, 2009
Digital Archive Offers Glimpse into the ‘Dark Side’ of the Enlightenment When most people talk...
May 2, 2009
"In Praise of the Undergraduate Essay" by French professor Dan Edelstein When the historian of the...
April 22, 2003
Stanford Daily
January 19, 2000
Stanford Report

Audio and Video

This video in the Stanford Humanities + Digital Tools series presents "Writing Rights," a digital humanities project that is visualizing the evolution of ideas that informed the creation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. For more information, visit

April 24, 2015


  • French and European Enlightenment
  • French Revolution
  • German Romanticisim


Maturitè scientifique, Collège Calvin, 1993
Licence ès letters, Universitè de Genève, 1999
M.A., University of Pennsylvania, 2000
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2004