Dr Emile Chabal
Director of the Centre for the Study of Modern and Contemporary History
Affiliated research centres
I completed my BA, MPhil and PhD in History at Cambridge. I was also a visiting student at Rice University in 2005-6, a Kennedy Scholar at Harvard University in 2008-9 and a pensionnaire étranger (overseas scholar) at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 2010-11.
My doctoral thesis - completed in 2011 - was awarded the Cambridge History Faculty's Prince Consort and Thirlwall Prize, and Seeley Medal for the best dissertation across all periods.
Shortly after finishing my PhD, I took up a position as a Departmental Lecturer in Modern European History in the Faculty of History and Balliol College, Oxford. In 2012, I returned to Cambridge as a Research Fellow in French Political History at St John's College. I came to Edinburgh in September 2013 as a Chancellor’s Fellow in History. I was promoted to Reader in 2018.
I was awarded a two-year AHRC Leadership Fellowship in 2017. As a result, I will have substantial periods of research leave from late 2017 to late 2019.
Reviews editor, Contemporary European History
Advisory Panel, H-France
You will find more details about my publications and research on my personal university homepage.
Summary of research interestsPlaces:
- Comparative & Global History
- Language & Literature
- Twentieth Century & After
My research has, for the most part, touched on three main areas: the transformation of French politics since the 1970s, Franco-British relations in the 20th century and the legacy of postcolonialism in France. This has resulted in a number of publications on contemporary French political culture, the 'Anglo-Saxon' in modern French thought, and French conceptions of the nation, the citizen and the secular. I have also worked on French theories of multiculturalism, the politics of postcolonialism and neo-liberal thought.
Those interested in learning a little more about my work to date might like to watch my short 'Research in a Nutshell' video or my recent Edinburgh Festival lecture on contemporary French politics.
Although I continue to work on France, my current research is focused on Eric Hobsbawm and the intellectual world of twentieth-century Europe.
Current research activities
My current research in European history is divided into two main areas.
The first is a new project on the life and work of the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm. This will result in a substantial intellectual biography to be published by Harvard University Press. The aim will be to situate Hobsbawm's life and work within twentieth-century European and global history, as well as explore his political and historical ideas. I want to bring out different aspects of his intellectual trajectory – from his interest in jazz to his commitment to Communism – and place these within a broader narrative of intellectual engagement, political responsibility and global thinking in the twentieth-century.
The second is a continuation of my work on French political culture. This was the subject of my first monograph, entitled A Divided Republic: nation, state and citizenship in contemporary France (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and my most recent book, France (Polity Press, 2020). It examines political culture in France through a series of key debates about the meaning of the nation, the definition of the citizen, the reform of the state and the interpretation of modern French history. Contrary to the widely-held view that political participation and engagement have atrophied in France since the 1980s, I suggest that we need a more open and imaginative definition of politics in order to capture the complexity of contemporary political allegiances and debates.
I want now to extend this work by looking more closely at different forms of political practice in France. At a national level, I have begun to work on the tension between neo-liberal and anti-capitalist thought in France, especially in the writings of thinkers like André Gorz and Luc Boltanski. At a local level, I have embarked on a long-term study of the politics of Montpellier and the surrounding region since the 1960s. Amongst other things, I am interested in the workings of municipal politics, especially in the larger-than-life figure of Georges Frêche, mayor of Montpellier from the late 1970s to the early 2000s; the management of ethnic minorities in Montpellier, including the European exile population from Algeria (the pieds-noirs); and the impact of identity politics and postcolonial memory. Many of these themes connect with my earlier work on French political culture.
In the summer of 2017, I was awarded a major AHRC Leadership Fellowship (£141,152) to pursue my work on Eric Hobsbawm. This will give me extended periods of research leave from 2017-2019 and allow me to undertake extensive fieldwork. This grant follows on from an earlier Carnegie Research Incentive Grant (2015-7) for the same project.
I am also involved in a number of research projects on migration and citizenship. I am a co-investigator on a large ESRC-funded project (£525,817) entitled 'Seeing Illegal Immigrants: state monitoring and political rationality' with fellow investigator Christina Boswell. The aim of the project is to understand better how and why European states gather data about 'illegal' migration and how this has changed since the 1970s. The project will run for two years (until mid-2018) and will include a number of publications and events based on the project findings.
Another smaller project in this field is a collaborative initiative between the University of Edinburgh and the Migrinter research centre at the Université de Poitiers in France. Most recently, this led to an interdisciplinary workshop on the Mediterranean in May 2015, sponsored by the Institut Français du Royaume-Uni and the Centre for the Study of Modern Conflict at Edinburgh. More details can be found here
In 2011-2012, I completed a research project on contemporary France entitled 'French politics in an age of uncertainty'. This resulted in an international workshop held at the Maison Française d'Oxford in September 2012 and an edited book (see above under 'Books'). Details of the workshop can be found here.
- Making of the Modern World (Pre-Hons)
- European History 1b (since 1789) (Pre-Hons)
- Asia and Africa (AA2b) (Pre-Hons)
- History in Theory (Hons)
- History in Practice (Hons)
- Undergraduate dissertations (Hons)
- France since 1940 (3/4MA)
- The Marxist Imagination in Europe, c.1950-present (3/4MA)
- Dreams and nightmares: the culture and politics of postwar Europe (4MA)
- Writing History: Theory and Practice
- Historical Methodology ('Writing contemporary history')
- Historical Research: Sources and Skills ('Interpreting film')
- Revolutions in the Twentieth Century
- An Uncertain World: the West since the 1970s
|Name||Degree||Thesis topic||Supervision type||Link|
|Fanny Cornu||MScR||Personal, cultural and political implications of French soldiers in the Boshin War||Secondary|
“They have many chains to bind us”: state formation, foreign policy and the colonial pact in Mali, c.1958-present
|Iker Itoiz Ciáurriz||PhD||The political commitment of Eric Hobsbawm: the passion for politics in a transformed world (1977-2012)||Primary|
|Marina Moya Moreno||PhD||Representation and memorialisation of the Spanish transition: the construction of Spanish democratic identity in the representation of history||Primary||Website|
|Hugo Zetterberg||PhD||Mau Mau and the Algerian War of Independence: Two Late Colonial Conflicts and their Representation in News Media||Primary||Website|
PhD (Université de Savoie-Mont-Blanc, France)
Quand identité rime avec sécurité. La démocratie devant le défi nationaliste en France et au Royaume-Uni: 2010 – 2020
|Secondary||Thesis information (French)|
|Name||Degree||Thesis topic||Supervision type||Completion year||Link|
|Charlotte Krass||PhD||Challenging the Republic: French Roma Policy in the Enlarged EU||Joint||2018||Final PhD|
Currently accepting research student applications : Yes
Areas accepting Research Students in:
I am very happy to supervise Masters and PhD students. I will also gladly consider co-supervision with other schools (Social and Political Sciences, French etc.) and/or cross-institutional supervision (including co-tutelle with European universities). Please contact me if you have an idea or are thinking of applying to study at Edinburgh.
I welcome applications in any of the following fields:
- any aspect of 20th and 21st century French history, politics and intellectual history
- French imperial history in the 20th century, especially the legacies of empire
- the life and work of Eric Hobsbawm and other postwar British/European Marxist thinkers
- theoretical and historical approaches to the study of neo-liberalism
- nationalism, national myths, and national narratives
Please note that a complete and updated list of publications (with weblinks) is available on my website.
- France (Polity Histories) (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2020)
- A Divided Republic: nation, state and citizenship in contemporary France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015)
- France since the 1970s: history, politics and memory in an age of uncertainty (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014) (edited)
- Britain and France in Two World Wars: Truth, Myth and Memory (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013) (co-edited with Robert Tombs)
Articles and book chapters
- 'Anticolonialism' in The Cambridge History of French Thought, eds. Michael Moriarty and Jeremy Jennings (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2019)
- 'Big data, small concepts: histosophy as an approach to longue-durée history' in Global Intellectual History (Vol. 4, No. 3, 2019) (co-authored with Luis de Miranda)
- 'Historians of the world, unite! Eric Hobsbawm and the Communist Party Historians Group, 1946-1956' in Mundos do Trabalho (Vol. 10, No. 19, 2018)
- 'Les intellectuels et la crise de la démocratie' in Pouvoirs (No. 161, April 2017)
- 'From the banlieue to the burkini: the many lives of French republicanism' in Modern and Contemporary France (Vol. 25, No. 1, 2017)
- 'French Political Culture in the 1970s. Liberalism, Identity Politics and the Modest State' in Geschichte und Gesellschaft (Vol. 42, No. 2, 2016)
- 'The Agonies of Liberalism' in Contemporary European History (Vol. 25, No. 4, 2016)
- 'Capitalism and its critics: anti-liberalism in contemporary French politics' in In Search of the Liberal Moment: Democracy, Anti-totalitarianism, and Intellectual Politics in France since 1950, eds. I. Stewart & S. Sawyer (London: Palgrave, 2016)
- 'Managing the postcolony: minority politics in Montpellier, c.1960-c.2010' in Contemporary European History (Vol. 23, No. 2, 2014)
- 'Le Président? Georges Frêche and the making of a local notable in late 20th century France' in Place and Locality in Modern France, 1750-present, eds. P. Whalen & P. Young (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014)
- 'The rise of the Anglo-Saxon: French perceptions of the Anglo-American world in the long twentieth century' in French Politics, Culture and Society (Vol. 31, No. 1, Spring 2013)
- 'Just say non? France, Britain and the European Union since the 1980s' in National Identities in France, ed. B. J. Sudlow (London: Transaction Press, 2011)
- 'De 'New Britain' à la 'Big Society': l’innovation sociale à l’anglaise' in Chantiers Politiques (No. 9, Summer 2011)
- 'Writing the French national narrative in the 21st century' in The Historical Journal (Vol. 53, No. 2, Summer 2010)
- 'La République postcoloniale: making the nation in late 20th century France' in France’s Lost Empires: Fragmentation, Nostalgia and la fracture coloniale, eds. N. Frith & K. Marsh (London: Lexington, 2010)
- 'Uses and abuses of history: memories of the République in late 20th century France' in Historicising the French Revolution, eds. I. DiVanna, D. Dodds & T. Blanning (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008)
Op-eds, blog posts and other media
For a complete list of media work, including radio and print media, see the relevant section of my website.