J.P. Daughton is a historian of modern Europe and European imperialism with a particular interest in political, cultural, and social history as well as the history of humanitarianism. He explores how expansionist and colonialist policies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries shaped both European and non-European societies, with particular interest in nineteenth and twentieth-century France and the history of French colonialism and imperialism.
His first book, An Empire Divided: Religion, Republicanism, and the Making of French Colonialism, 1880-1914 (2006), examines how conflict between religious missionaries and a host of anticlerical critics defined French colonial policies and “civilizing” ideologies in the empire, especially in Indochina, Madagascar, and Polynesia. An Empire Divided has been awarded two book prizes: the Alf Andrew Heggoy Prize of the French Colonial Historical Society for best book on French colonialism published in 2006, and the George Louis Beer Prize for the best book in International History, from the American Historical Association.
Daughton's current project, entitled Humanity So Far Away: Violence, Suffering, and Humanitarianism in the Modern French Empire, explores the central role human suffering played as an experience, a moral concept, and a political force in the rise and fall of French imperialism from the late 1800s to the 1960s. The book also considers how colonial practices increasingly intersected with efforts to establish norms of humane behavior -- efforts most often led by non-state and international bodies, especially the League of Nations and the International Labor Organization.
Drawing on methods of political, cultural, and intellectual history, Daughton's research aims to explore concretely the extent to which notions about empathy and humanitarianism spread (or failed to spread) from Europe to the outermost reaches of the globe in the twentieth century. In addition to conducting archival research in France, Italy, and Tahiti, he was a visiting fellow in the Faculty of History at the National University of Vietnam, Hanoi. He was awarded the John Tracy Ellis Dissertation Award from the American Catholic Historical Association in 2000, and received a J. William Fulbright fellowship for research in France, as well as dissertation fellowships from the Harry Frank Guggenheim and Woodrow Wilson foundations.