Washington University in St. Louis
Campus Box 1062
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
Venus Bivar is an assistant professor of History at Washington University in St. Louis, where she pursues research and teaching in three broad fields; European, economic, and environmental history. More specifically, her interests include the history of capitalism, agriculture and international trade, and the human history of climate change. Her first book, based on an award-winning dissertation, charts the meteoric rise of the farm sector in postwar France. She is currently working on two new projects. The first studies the emergence in of economic growth as both an economic category of analysis and a political objective, while the second examines the social consequences of port development and urban planning in Marseille. Professor Bivar received her doctoral training at the University of Chicago, and spent two years at the University of California at Berkeley on a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship.
“The Billon Affair: A Case Study in the Moral Economy of Agricultural Modernization” (under review with Past and Present).
"History for Sale: The International Art Market and the Nation State," International Journal of Cultural Property, vol. 13, no. 3 (2006): 259-283.
"Land reform, European integration, and the industrialization of agriculture in postwar France," in Kiran Klaus Patel (ed.), Fertile Ground for Europe? The History of European Integration and the Common Agricultural Policy since 1945, (Baden-Baden: Nomos 2009).
Works in Progress
Organic Resistance: The Struggle for French Farming
There are two surprises in this book. First, French farming is not the bastion of gastronomic refinement that the world tends to believe that it is. And the origins of organic farming do not lie with the radical left, but instead with the fascist right. This book is a response to the superficial literature French food culture. French farming is not what it seems, from its industrial successes to the politically suspect origins of its turn to terroir. In Organic Resistance, I trace how the agricultural sector in France went from being a traditional also-ran at the close of World War II to being a major player in the regional and global food trade by the end of the twentieth century. As the world's second largest exporter of agricultural goods, France is one of a very few countries that controls the global food system. Yet in spite of its industrial success, France came to be perceived as a leader of "quality" or artisanal production. In my book, I demonstrate how the farm sector projected a devotion to the sanctity of French soil alongside while participating in international trade negotiations and cutthroat market competition.
Growth: A Promise for the Modern World
I my second book I explore the emergence in the decades following the Great Depression of a new conception of economic growth as both an economic and political category of analysis. Political economists of the nineteenth century had thought in terms of demographic or territorial expansion, but never of limitless abstract growth. By the 1930s, however, in the wake of financial crisis and new assumptions regarding state responsibility for the economy, the concrete counting of heads and hectares gave way to the abstract calculation of gross national product. The calculation of wealth and political legitimacy now went hand in hand. Office holders began promising economic growth to their constituents and their constituents began expecting it. By the 1950s economic growth had entered the vernacular. While the first measurements of GNP were conducted in the United States, this abstract understanding of economic performance was promptly exported to the newly minted Third World by way of such institutions as the World Bank and IMF. As colonies gained independence they too believed that growth would provide a brighter future. Ultimately I argue that the emphasis on growth not only contributed to the development of technocratic politics, in which the economy took precedence over social and cultural issues, but also elided questions concerning domestic and global inequality.
Barbarity and Civilization in Modern Europe
Money Talks: Readings in Economic History
The Wheels of Commerce: From the Industrial Revolution to Global Capitalism
Riots and Revolution: A History of Modern France from 1789 to the Present
The Human History of Climate Change
Losing the Farm: 20th Century Agriculture in a Global Context
Modern Political Thought: Liberalism and Its Critics