Shanti M. Singham

Photo of Shanti M. Singham

Professor of History and Africana Studies, Emerita


Shanti Marie Singham is a historian specializing in modern European history, with a focus on the Francophone world. She was educated at Wolmer’s High School for Girls in Kingston, Jamaica, and then came to the United States, where she received her undergraduate education from Howard University and Swarthmore College (1980). Her training at Princeton University, where she received her Ph.D. (1991), was in popular political culture and the social history of ideas in the age of the French Revolution. Her dissertation and early work explored police archives and illegal publications to uncover the existence of a stronger, and more radical, opposition to the French monarchy in the pre-revolutionary period than usually depicted. [See, for example, her "The Correspondence Secrète: Forging Patriotic Public Opinion During the Maupeou Years," Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques, Vol. 18, no. 2 (Summer 1992), and her "Imbued With Patriotism: The Maupeou Crisis and the Politicization of the Mémoires secrets," in The Mémoires secrets and the Secrets of the Enlightenment, Voltaire Foundation, History of the Periodical Press series, ed. Bernadette Fort and Jeremy Popkin, Oxford University Press, Fall, 1998.]

After coming to Williams College in 1987 as a Bolin Fellow, Singham has greatly benefited from the engaging student and teaching culture at Williams to expand her horizons and become a world historian. She has taught classes in “The French and Haitian Revolutions,” “Blacks, Jews, and Women in the Age of the French Revolution,” “Caribbean History: From Slavery to Independence,” “Slavery, Revolution, Colonialism: The Impact of the New World on the Old,” “European Imperialism and Decolonization,” “Africans in Europe,” “Black Power Abroad,” and “Muslims in Europe.” Her more recent publications include “Betwixt Cattle and Men: Jews, Blacks, and Women and the Declaration of the Rights of Man,” in The French Idea of Freedom: The Old Regime and the Declaration of Rights of 1789, ed. Dale Van Kley, Stanford University Press, 1994; “France, Algeria, Iraq: Teaching and Activism in a Time of War,”, 2006; and a forthcoming essay, “From Cosmopolitan Anti-Colonialism to Liberal Imperialism: French Intellectuals and North Africa in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries,” in a Festschrift in honor of her graduate advisor, Robert Darnton.

Having grown up in the Caribbean during the era of independence, nation-building, and Black Power, Singham has tried to stay true to her activist upbringing, from doing a community-based “Oral History of Blacks in Berkshire County,” to being the first faculty sponsor for SOCA (Students of Caribbean Ancestry) at Williams, serving on the National Steering Committee of Historians Against the War during the Bush Wars, organizing teach-ins and national petitions against the Iraq War, and working with students on several presidential elections, especially the Obama campaign. She hopes to bring the spirit of C.L.R. James and Walter Rodney, two of her childhood heroes and activist intellectuals, to bear on her work as Chair of Africana Studies.
History Department