Professor McMahon was educated at the University of California, Berkeley and Yale University, where he received his PhD in 1998. He is the author of Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity (Oxford University Press, 2001), and Happiness: A History (Atlantic Monthly Books, 2006), which has been, or is being, translated into thirteen foreign languages. McMahon is also the editor, with Florence Lotterie, of Les Lumières européennes dans leurs relations avec les autres grandes cultures et religions du XVIIIe siècle (Honoré Champion, 2002), and with Ryan Patrick Hanley, of The Enlightenment: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies, 5 vols. (London: Routledge, 2009). His writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times Book Review, The Boston Globe, Daedalus, and the Wilson Quarterly, and his work has been featured on CBS's "Sunday Morning," the BBC, the CBC, and numerous National Public Radio programs, including "The Diane Rehm Show," "To the Best of Our Knowledge," "On Point," "The Leonard Lopate Show" and "Forum With Michael Krasny."
Before coming to FSU, Professor McMahon held post-doctoral fellowships at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University, the Remarque Institute at New York University, the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen in Vienna, and also taught history at Yale University and the University of Rouen, France. He is currently at work on an intellectual history of the idea of genius in Western thought, to be published by Basic Books, and is editing, with Samuel Moyn, Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History for the Twenty-First Century, to be published by Oxford.