Coleman, Charly

Associate Professor

Office Hours

Spring 2024: Tuesdays, 4:30 - 6:30 pm. Book an appointment by clicking here.


Ph.D. – Stanford University, 2005
B.A. – Trinity University, Texas 1998


Interests and Research

Charly Coleman, associate professor, specializes in the European Enlightenment and the French Revolution, with a particular emphasis on the intersections between religion, philosophy, and political economy. His latest monograph, The Spirit of French Capitalism: Economic Theology in the Age of Enlightenment (Stanford University Press, 2021; short-listed for the Kenshur Prize), uncovers a distinctly Catholic ethic of commodity culture that—in contrast to Weber’s famous “Protestant ethic”—privileged the marvelous over the mundane, consumption over production, and the pleasures of enjoyment over the rigors of delayed gratification. He is also the author of The Virtues of Abandon: An Anti-Individualist History of the French Enlightenment (Stanford University Press, 2014; winner of the 2016 Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies), which examines the relationship between personhood and property through the study of a culture of dispossession that drew together heretical mystics and radical materialists during the long eighteenth century. His research on selfhood, political economy, and economic theology has appeared in The Journal of Modern History, Modern Intellectual History, French Historical Studies, French History, and various edited volumes. He is currently at work on a new book, tentatively entitled Money and Martyrs, that extends the history of economic theology to debates over the fate of ecclesiastical property, paper currency, and civic religion during the French Revolution. 



  • Religion and Capitalism
  • Rethinking Secularization in Early Modern Europe
  • The European Enlightenment
  • Politics of Terror: The French Revolution
  • Early Modern France
  • Composing the Self in Early Modern Europe
  • Dissertation Prospectus Workshop
  • Senior Thesis Seminar
  • Contemporary Civilization I and II
  • Historical Craft and Method
  • Research Seminar for PhD Students


Fellowships and Awards

  • Short List, Kenshur Prize, for The Spirit of French Capitalism
  • Heyman Center Fellowship
  • Lenfest Junior Faculty Development Grant
  • Membership, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science
  • President’s Global Innovation Fund, Columbia University, Enhancing the Research Component of the History Major (co-principal investigator, Susan Pedersen)
  • Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies, for The Virtues of Abandon
  • Mabelle McLeod Lewis Memorial Fund Fellowship
  • Marjorie Farrar Award, Society for French Historical Studies
  • Mellon Dissertation Fellowship
  • Bourse Chateaubriand, Service Culturel de l’Ambassade de France aux États-Unis
  • Centennial Teaching Award, Stanford University




The Spirit of French Capitalism: Economic Theology in the Age of Enlightenment (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2021)

The Virtues of Abandon: An Anti-Individualist History of the French Enlightenment (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014)

Articles and Chapters

With Charles Walton, “Abstract and Embodied: The Political Economy of the French Revolution,” French History (forthcoming, June 2024). 

“A Gospel of Enjoyment,” Aeon, June 30, 2023. 

“From Political Culture to Economic Theology,” in The Routledge Handbook of the History and Sociology of Ideas, ed. Stefanos Geroulanos and Gisèle Sapiro (New York: Routledge, 2023), 172-184.

Response to Gail Bossenga, review of The Spirit of French Capitalism: Economic Theology in the Age of Enlightenment, by Charly Coleman, H-France Review 22, no. 49 (April 2022): 1-7.

“Diderot, the Self, and the Science of Dreaming,” in The Self: A History, ed. Patricia Kitcher (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021), 212-232. 

“The Spirit of Speculation: John Law and Economic Theology in the Age of Lights,” French Historical Studies 42, 2 (April 2019): 203-238.

“Enlightenment in the Shadows: Mysticism, Materialism, and the Dream State in Eighteenth-Century France,” in Let There Be Enlightenment: The Religious and Mystical Origins of Rationality, ed. Anton Matysin and Dan Edelstein (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018), 247-267.

“The Economy of the Mysteries: Administering Sacramental Wealth in the Age of Lights,” Occasional Papers, School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Paper Number 61 (May 2018).

“The Vagaries of Disenchantment: God, Matter, and Mammon in the Eighteenth Century,” Modern Intellectual History 14, 3 (November 2017): 869-881.

“Religion,” in The Cambridge Companion to the French Enlightenment, ed. Daniel Brewer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 105-121.

“Playing God,” Forum on Thomas Pfau, Minding the Modern: Human Agency, Intellectual Traditions, and Responsible Knowledge, The Immanent France, Social Science Research Council (November 2014).

“Resacralizing the Self: Mysticism, Materialism, and Personhood in Eighteenth-Century France,” in Sacred and Secular Agency in Early Modern France: Fragments of Religion, ed. Sanja Perovic (London: Continuum, 2012), 83-103.

“Resacralizing the World: The Fate of Secularization in Enlightenment Historiography,” The Journal of Modern History 82 (June 2010): 368-395.

“The Value of Dispossession: Rethinking Discourses of Selfhood in Eighteenth-Century France,” Modern Intellectual History 2, 3 (November 2005): 299-326.