Venus Bivar

Assistant Professor of History​
PhD, University of Chicago
MA, University of Chicago
BA, University of British Columbia
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  • CB 1062
  • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899
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​Venus Bivar pursues research and teaching in three broad fields: European, economic, and environmental history. 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 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. 

Selected Publications


Organic Resistance: The Struggle Over Industrial Farming in Postwar France (UNC Press, 2018).

There are two surprises in Organic Resistance. 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. From its capitalist successes to the politically suspect origins of its turn to terroir, French farming is not at all what it seems. Organic Resistance delves into the intersecting narratives of economic modernization, the birth of organic farming, the development of a strong agricultural protest movement, and the rise of environmentalism. This fresh perspective, grounded in as-yet unexplored archives, provides an antidote to recent works that have focused on the gastronomy, tourism and leisure associated with the French countryside while ignoring the weight of big agriculture in the national economy and its role in shaping rural life and landscapes.

Peer-Reviewed Articles

Guest co-editor of special issue of Modern and Contemporary France titled "French Industrial Food and its Critics" (expected publication in autumn 2019). 

"Agricultural High Modernism and Land Reform in Postwar France," Agricultural History (scheduled for publication in autumn 2019).

"Manufacturing a Multifunctional Countryside: Operational Landscapes, Urban Desire, and the French State, 1945-1976," French Politics, Culture & Society 36, no. 2 (Summer 2018).

"History for Sale: The International Art Market and the Nation State," International Journal of Cultural Property, vol. 13, no. 3 (2006): 259-283.

Book Chapters

"La modernisation agricole française d’après 1945 : politiques et contestations," in Ed. Christophe Bonneuil. Une Autre histoire des modernisations agricoles au XXe siècle (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2019).
"Land reform, European integration, and the industrialization of agriculture in postwar France," in Ed. Kiran Klaus Patel. Fertile Ground for Europe? The History of European Integration and the Common Agricultural Policy since 1945 (Baden-Baden: Nomos 2009): 119-137.

Works in Progress

Growth: A Promise for the Modern World
In her second book, Bivar explores 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 she argues 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.

Divided by Design: Port and City in Postwar Marseille
With this project Bivar hopes to excavate the entangled social and spatial histories of postwar urban development and racial segregation in the city of Marseille. Through housing policy, public transportation, and efforts to revitalize the city center, various administrations tried to govern the site of the Old Port, where new arrivals to the city had historically settled, and to control how North African immigrants in particular circulated through public spaces. Grounded in the methods of social history and urban theory, this project will produce both a history of efforts to redraw the city center and a visual archive of how the city was envisioned from above by planners and experienced from below by the diverse populations who have inhabited the city since the Second World War.


Recent Courses

The Wheels of Commerce: From Industrial Revolutions to Global Capitalism

An Inconvenient Truth: The Human History of Climate Change

Riots and Revolution: A History of Modern France

Barbarity and Civilisation in Modern Europe

Liberalism and its Critics: A History of Modern Political Thought

Money Talks: Advanced Readings in Economic History

Writing I (Washington University Prison Education Program at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center)

Independent studies in the history of economic thought

Organic Resistance: The Struggle over Industrial Farming in Postwar France

Organic Resistance: The Struggle over Industrial Farming in Postwar France

France is often held up as a bastion of gastronomic refinement and as a model of artisanal agriculture and husbandry. But French farming is not at all what it seems. Countering the standard stories of gastronomy, tourism, and leisure associated with the French countryside, Venus Bivar portrays French farmers as hard-nosed businessmen preoccupied with global trade and mass production. With a twin focus on both the rise of big agriculture and the organic movement, Bivar examines the tumult of postwar rural France, a place fiercely engaged with crucial national and global developments.