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Dr. Rachel Chrastil is a historian of modern Europe and an award-winning teacher. In How to Be Childless: A History and Philosophy of Life Without Children, Chrastil explores the long and fascinating history of childlessness, putting this often-overlooked legacy in conversation with the issues that childless women and men face in the twenty-first century. Chrastil's work on childlessness has appeared in The Washington Post, Psychology Today and the podcast Think Act Be.


Chrastil's first two books, Organizing for War: France 1870-1914 and The Siege of Strasbourg, examine civilian dilemmas in the face of war.


For her work on the siege of Strasbourg, Chrastil researched in France as a Fulbright Scholar. Her investigation into the past took her through the city streets, to the top of the cathedral, and into the cemeteries. Her findings illuminate a change in humanitarianism that haunts us to the present day: how do we best intervene to save civilians under attack?


Chrastil joined the faculty at Xavier University in 2005. She served as Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 2017-2020 and currently serves as Director of Accreditation for the institution. Prior to her appointment as Associate Dean, Chrastil was the Founding Director of the First-Year Seminar program.  


Chrastil earned her Ph.D. in European History from Yale University, where she studied with John Merriman in the field of Modern France. At Indiana University, she was a Herman B. Wells Scholar, and studied History, French, and Mathematics. She and partner John Fairfield live in Cincinnati.




How to Be Childless: A History and Philosophy of Life Without Children (Oxford University Press, 2019).

The Siege of Strasbourg (Harvard University Press, 2014).


Organizing for War: France, 1870-1914 (Louisiana State University Press, 2010).


“The French Red Cross, War Readiness, and Civil Society, 1866-1914.” French Historical Studies 31, no. 3 (Summer 2008): 445-76.


“Military Preparation in Peacetime: Training Societies, 1871-92.” Dix-Neuf, no. 4 (April 2005): 35-51.


“Who Lost the Franco-Prussian War?: Blame, Politics, and Citizenship in the 1870s.” Proceedings of the Western Society for French History 32 (2004): 277-93.


“Great Powers, Small Communities: Commemorating the Franco-Prussian War, 1871-1914,” in Visions/Revisions: Essays on Nineteenth-Century French Culture, ed. Nigel Harkness, Paul Rowe, Tim Unwin and Jennifer Yee (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2003): 175-92.




Roger A. Fortin Award for Outstanding Teaching and Scholarship in the Humanities, Xavier University, 2015.


Faculty Fellowship for “The Stuff of Everyday Life: Using Quantitative Literacy in the Humanities to Address Sustainability Issues,” sponsored by the Xavier University Center for Teaching Excellence, 2013.


Fellowship, Gustave Gimon Collection on French Political Economy at the Stanford University Libraries, 2013.


Fulbright U.S. Scholar on a Fulbright-Alsace Regional Council Award for research in Strasbourg, France, 2009.


Commendation by the Jury for the Malcolm Bowie Prize for “The French Red Cross, War Readiness, and Civil Society, 1866-1914,” sponsored by the Society for French Studies, 2008.


First Prize, Society of Dix-Neuviémistes Postgraduate Essay Competition, for “Military Preparation in Peacetime: Paramilitary Associations, 1871-92,” 2004.






“What Does It Mean to Be Ready for War? Civilians and Conflict in France, 1870-1914,” Cultures of War Symposium hosted by the University of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Art Museum. Cincinnati, OH, October 12, 2018.


“Childlessness in Northwestern Europe: A Brief History,” University of Tennessee. Knoxville, TN, October 18, 2017.

“Besieged: Civilians at the Dawn of Total War,” The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Cincinnati, OH, November 12, 2016.


“The Siege of Strasbourg of 1870: Anticipations of 1914?” International Symposium, From One War to the Next: What Was Left of 1870-1871 in 1914? Musée de la Guerre de 1870 et de l’Annexion inaugural conference. Gravelotte, France, March 27-29, 2014.


“Inventing Humanitarianism: Gender and the Civilian Male in Besieged Strasbourg,” University of California, Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz, CA, November 14, 2013.


“Humanitarianism and the Protection of Civilians in Wartime,” Emerging Issues Meeting, Santa Clara University. Santa Clara, CA, November 11, 2013.


“France Divided: The Vichy Government, Le Chambon, and Resistance,” Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education. Cincinnati, OH, June 17, 2013.


“Justice after Genocide?: The Nuremberg Trials and the Genocide Convention,” Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education. Cincinnati, OH, October 31, 2012.


“Inventing Humanitarianism: Emotion, Gender and the Civilian Male,” Penn State University. State College, PA, April 2, 2012.


“How to Change the World: A Brief History,” Phi Beta Kappa Annual Lecture, Xavier University. Cincinnati, OH, March 14, 2012.


“Anri Sala’s Intervista: Art, History and Memory,” Perspectives Lecture, Contemporary Arts Center. Cincinnati, OH, August 17, 2009.


“To the Last Extremity?: The Siege of Strasbourg and the Laws of War (1870),” Past to Present Seminar, University of North Florida. Jacksonville, FL, September 25, 2008.

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