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Mary D. Lewis

Harvard University Affiliated Professor

Professor of History, Harvard University


Mary D. Lewis
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Mary Lewis is Professor of History at Harvard. She specializes in the legal, political, and social history of France and its overseas empire since the 18th century. Her first book was about the development of immigrant rights in interwar France. A co-winner of the 2008 J. Willard Hurst Prize in socio-legal history, The Boundaries of the Republic: Migrant Rights and the Limits of Universalism in France, 1918-1940 (Stanford, 2007) showed how rights emerged on the ground through everyday (and often very local) power struggles, then were enshrined in formal policy at the national level after the Second World War. Her second book, Divided Rule: Sovereignty and Empire in French Tunisia, 1881-1938 (California, 2013), examined connections between quotidian colonial conflicts, legal pluralism, and international relations, a dynamic that transformed French rule in Tunisia from a model of indirect rule where power was shared with the local dynasty to an interventionist quasi-colony in the course of fifty years. Her current research focuses on the “First French Decolonization,” or the shift away from a French Atlantic empire from the late 18th to the mid-19th centuries.


  • B.A. University of California at Davis, 1991
  • M.A. New York University, 1995
  • Ph.D. New York University, 2000