Nicole Louise Mahoney

Nicole Mahoney is a Ph.D. candidate in American History and her primary research interests include early American social and cultural history, the eighteenth-century Atlantic World, and comparative literature.

Her dissertation, “Liberty, Gentility, and Dangerous Liaisons: French Culture and Polite Society in Early National America,” explores how elite Americans in the second half of the eighteenth century used the culture of French gentility to manage social change and reinforce class boundaries. In it, she traces how the intricacy of French courtly culture, emanating from its epicenters at Versailles and Paris during the reign of Louis XV (1715-1774), raised the standards and expectations associated with polite society out of the reach of ordinary Americans and created a superstratum of genteel performance. Not content to be passive consumers of British goods on the fringes of empire, many Americans used the values and vestiges of French courtly culture to proclaim that they were instead dynamic cosmopolitan actors capable of competing in transatlantic communication, economic, and intellectual networks. Her research in French and American gentility and sociability shows a profound hardening of class boundaries and an American elite reliant on performance, ceremony, and title.

Nicole’s research has been generously supported by the New-York Historical Society, the John Carter Brown Library, the Boston Athenaeum, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, the Hagley Museum and Library, the Alliance Française de Philadelphie, as well as the Graduate School and the History Department of the University of Maryland, College Park.

Prior to the University of Maryland, Nicole earned a B.A. in History and French Studies from Wagner College and an M.A. in History and Literature from Columbia University. She has worked for the New-York Historical Society, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the National Constitution Center, and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Francis Scott Key Hall