Before joining St. Andrews, I held a three-year postdoctoral research fellow with the International Studies Group at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. I was awarded my PhD in Modern European History, and an M.Phil in Modern Irish History from Trinity College, Dublin. My research and teaching interests are twentieth century imperial and social history focusing on movements of peoples between metropoles and colonies, with a specific interest in the French empire. My particular research interests examine French imperial conquest, the search for French grandeur or greatness, and the multifaceted interactions between subjects, citizens, settlers and the metropole. Indeed, understanding the shifting ties that bound France to its colonies can illuminate our understanding of the Franco-French conflicts of the twentieth century from interwar attempts to cultivate an imperial identity to the Vichy regime’s desire to be a lynchpin between Africa and Europe, to post-war violence in France and the colonies. Close examination of the consequences of Second World War both politically and socially shape our understanding of the postcolonial era.
My first monography, Hostages of Empire, Colonial Prisoners of War and Vichy France based on PhD research funded by the Irish Research Council is under contract with University of Nebraska Press for publication in its France Overseas series. Ituses the experiences of 85,000 colonial POWs in German captivity to make broader connections to France’s imperial future as imagined during the Second World War while drawing comparisons to experiences of other prisoners of war in German captivity. Hostages of Empire seeks to reconcile two previously rather distinct histories, that of metropolitan France and that of the French colonies during World War II. Bringing them together is one way to overcome a split history over two dimensions that contemporaries saw as intimately linked. Through the experiences of an exile community of colonial soldiers in metropolitan France, this work examines Vichy’s imperial commitments, collaboration, and how colonial prisoners fared in captivity in comparison with white prisoners.
My next major research project, entitled, “African Angers: post-war violence and returning soldiers from the British and French Empires” studies the consequences of the Second World War in the imperial world both on a local level through the soldiers’ reintegration into their families and communities, and on a global scale through incidents of violence involving ex-soldiers and the roots of the decolonisation moment. This research, (for which I have won funding for archival work in the British National Archives in Kew, and the French Colonial Archives in Aix-en-Provence), grows from my interest in tracing how the transnational experiences of war translate into the local experiences when the men return home. It challenges the idea that repatriation was a purely masculine event by examining the familial context to which these men returned and how homecoming affected local women and feelings of masculinity. As such, this project examines questions of gender, movement, violence, growing nationalism and nascent ideas of independence in the comparative context of British and French Africa.
Articles/Chapters in Edited Collections
Public HIstory/Public Engagement
I teach the honours modules:
MO3523: Postcolonial Europe: Empire and its Legacies in Western Europe since 1945
MO4962: France and Africa in the Twentieth Century: Colonialism, Anticolonialism, Postcolonialism
MO3419: The French ‘Civil Wars’ of the 20th Century
I co-teach or lecture on the following:
MO1008: Themes in Late Modern History, c. 1776-1989
MO5151: Transnational History Masters
IH5001: Intellectual History Masters
Current Research Students
Unalundo Sechele, doctoral thesis, “Botswana-South Africa Economic Relations: A History, 1966-2014”. University of the Free State, January 2016-present (co-supervisor).