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Department of History
Tufts University
East Hall, room 106
Medford, MA 02155

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Elizabeth Foster
Associate Professor of History
Co-Director of Graduate Studies
Modern France in the World, Colonial West Africa


I specialize in the history of modern France and the French Empire, though I also enjoy teaching courses in European and global history more broadly. I presently offer courses on Modern France, the French Revolution, France and Africa, France in the Second World War, Europe in the Twentieth Century, the First World War, and a global survey entitled Empires and Nations. My first book, Faith in Empire, explores French colonial rule in West Africa through the prism of religion. Based on archival research in France, Senegal, and Italy, it examines the relationships between French Catholic missionaries, French colonial administrators, and Muslim, Christian, and animist Africans in colonial Senegal between 1880 and 1940. My new book African Catholic examines how African and French Catholics imagined the future of French sub-Saharan Africa in the years just prior to and just after decolonization, and shows how decolonization profoundly shaped the reorientation of Catholicism at mid-century. It draws on a variety of perspectives, including those of French missionaries and theologians, Catholic African priests and intellectuals, militant Catholic African students, and lay activists in Africa and in France, to weave a new history of late colonialism, decolonization, church reform, and the enduring "post-colonial" ties between Europe and its former colonies.


  • Ph.D. Princeton University, 2006
  • B.A. Harvard University, 1998


Modern France, France in the World, Colonial West Africa, Religion and Empire

Recent Fellowships and Awards

  • ACLS Fellowship, 2016-2017
  • NEH Fellowship 2016-2017
  • Center for the Humanities Faculty Fellowship, Tufts University, 2015-2016
  • Alf Andrew Heggoy Book Prize, French Colonial Historical Society, 2014
  • NEH Summer Stipend, 2014
  • Visiting Scholar, Center for European Studies, Harvard University, 2012-2013
  • Fulbright Scholar Award to France, 2012

Selected Publications


  • African Catholic: Decolonization and the Transformation of the Church (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019)
  • Faith in Empire: Religion, Politics, and Colonial Rule in French Senegal, 1880-1940 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013).
    Winner, 2014 Alf Andrew Heggoy Prize

Articles and Book Chapters

  • "'Entirely Christian and Entirely African': Catholic African Students in France in the Era of Independence" in The Journal of African History 56:2 (2015): 239-259.
  • "'Theologies of Colonization': The Catholic Church and the Future of the French Empire in the 1950s" in The Journal of Modern History, 87:2 (2015): 281-315.
  • "Introduction: Decolonization and Religion in Modern French History" co-authored with Giuliana Chamedes in French Politics, Culture &Society 33:2 (2015): 1-10.
  • "A Mission in Transition: Monsignor Joseph Faye and the Decolonization of the Catholic Church in Senegal" in Owen White and J. P. Daughton, eds. In God's Empire: French Missionaries and the Modern World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 257-277.
  • "'En mission il faut se faire à tout': les Sœurs de la Conception Immaculée de Castres au Sénégal, 1880-1900" trans. François Proulx, in Sarah Curtis, ed. Femmes Missionnaires: l'autre visage de la mission. Histoire et Missions Chrétiennes 16 (2010): 73-108.
  • "An Ambiguous Monument: Dakar's Colonial Cathedral of the Souvenir Africain" in French Historical Studies 32 (2009): 85-119. (Commended by the jury for the Malcolm Bowie Prize)
  • "Rethinking 'Republican Paternalism': William Ponty in French West Africa, 1890-1914" in Outre-Mers: Revue d'Histoire 95 (2007): 211-233.


  • History 4: Empires and Nations
  • History 59: Continent in Conflict: Europe's Twentieth Century
  • History 64: Modern France and the French Empire
  • History 96: France in WWII
  • History 159: The French Revolution
  • History 160: France and Africa since the 18th Century
  • History 196: The First World War and its Legacy