Elizabeth Cross is a historian of eighteenth-century France and its empire, with an emphasis on the history of political economy and capitalism. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in May 2017.
Her current book manuscript, tentatively entitled “The French East India Company and the Politics of Commerce in the Revolutionary Era,” traces the history of the last French East India Company during the late Old Regime and the French Revolution. Based on research in over twenty archives and libraries in France, Britain, and the United States, this project argues that the circumstances surrounding this Company’s incorporation and dissolution further our understanding of the roles played by globalization and economic institutions in revolutionary political transformations. The Company was a site of economic and political experimentation by French government officials, intellectuals, and private financial actors who, in seeking to control the Company for their own purposes, clashed over differing visions of both the French Empire and the role of the state in the economy. As such, when the Company was institutionally discredited by financial scandals and domestic and foreign failures, mercantile hostility to its privileged status drew on emerging, liberal ideas that called for the limitation of state intervention in the economy, the abolition of monopolies, and imperial restructuring. These demands fueled economic reforms in the early years of the French Revolution, eventually leading to the suppression of the Company during the Revolutionary Terror. The project thus explores how, in an age of revolutionary upheaval, the vicissitudes of the early, global economy destabilized political institutions on the national level.
Her research has been supported by Mellon Foundation fellowships from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), in addition to the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (Newberry Library fellowship), the Minda de Gunzberg Center for European Studies, and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University.