Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Steve Zdatny quit the food business in 1976 and began his long academic itinerary. He received his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982, with a concentration on modern French history. Professor Zdatny has taught at Wellesley College, Rice University, Augustana College (Illinois), and West Virginia University, where he was also department chair. He has been on the faculty at the University of Vermont since 2008. He has also lived and worked in Paris for several years, courtesy of grants from the American Philosophical Foundation, the Franco-American Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and two Fulbright Fellowships; he has twice been invited as a visiting research scholar at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences sociales. Crossing the Channel, Professor Z was an academic visitor at the University of Oxford in 2023 and will be an academic visitor at the University of Cambridge in Spring 2025.

The fruit of all this time spent in French libraries and archives (if not necessarily in the cafés)—and, recently, English pubs--has been a growing body of work on twentieth-century French social history. He has published several books --The Politics of Survival: Artisans in Twentieth-Century France (Oxford University Press, 1990); Hairstyles and Fashion: A Hairdresser’s History of Paris, 1910-1920 (Berg, 1999); and Fashion, Work, and Politics in Modern France (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006)--along with many articles in both English and French and has co-edited a special issue of French Historical Studies dedicated to the history of French fashion. Having become fascinated by the practice of shampooing while writing his previous book, Professor Zdatny’s latest publication is A History of Hygiene in Modern France: The Threshold of Disgust (Bloomsbury, 2024), which will begin flying off bookstore shelves and out of Amazon warehouses in April 2024.  Putting the smell back into history, this study examines the revolution in the practices and sensibilities of cleanliness (and its opposite) in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—a period that began very dirty but finished pretty clean. When he is not thinking about soap, deodorant, showers, and indoor toilets, Professor Zdatny plays golf, tennis, and ice hockey, wherein his fondest wish is to lead his team in both scoring and penalty minutes.


Areas of Expertise and/or Research

Modern France and Europe, cultural and social history


  • Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 1982


  • (802) 656-5406
Office Location:

Wheeler House, Room 306