David Avrom Bell is a historian of early modern and modern Europe at Princeton University. His most recent book, published in 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, is Men on Horseback: The Power of Charisma in the Age of Revolution. Hailed by the Journal of Modern History as an "instant classic," it is available in paperback from Picador, in French translation  from Fayard, and in Italian translation from Viella. A study of how new forms of political charisma arose in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the book shows that charismatic authoritarianism is as modern a political form as liberal democracy, and shares many of the same origins. Based on exhaustive research in original sources, the book includes case studies of the careers of George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, Toussaint Louverture and Simon Bolivar. The book's Introduction can be read here. An online conversation about the book with Annette Gordon-Reed, hosted by the Cullman Center of the New York Public Library, can be viewed here. Links to material about the book, including reviews in The New York Review of BooksThe GuardianHarper'sThe New Republic, The NationLe MondeThe Los Angeles Review of Books and other venues can be found here.


Bell is also the author of six previous books. He has published academic articles in both English and French and contributes regularly to general interest publications on a variety of subjects, ranging from modern warfare, to contemporary French politics, to the impact of digital technology on learning and scholarship, and of course French history. A list of his publications from 2022 and 2023 can be found here. His Substack newsletter can be found here. His writings have been translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Hebrew, Swedish, Polish, Russian, German, Croatian, Italian, Turkish and Japanese. At the History Department at Princeton University, he holds the Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Chair in the Era of North Atlantic Revolutions, and offers courses on early modern Europe, on military history, and on the early modern French empire. Previously, he spent fourteen years at Johns Hopkins University, including three as Dean of Faculty in its School of Arts and Sciences. From 2020 to 2024 he served as Director of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a corresponding fellow of the British Academy.


Bell's new project is a history of the Enlightenment. A preliminary article from the project was published in early 2022 by Modern Intellectual History. Another is now out in French History.


This website provides information about his books, with a special section on Men on Horseback, and links to recent essays, book reviews, research materials, and the books' on-line appendices, plus some videos, and reviews of his work. 


A full c.v. can be found here, and an academic genealogy here.


David A. Bell

Sidney and Ruth Lapidus

Professor in the Era of

North Atlantic Revolutions


Department of History


Princeton University



Curriculum Vitae

Substack Newsletter

Website updated May 2024