France and its Global Histories – Workshop Report

Dr Joanna Warson (Portsmouth) presenting her topic on France in Anglophone Africa, chaired by Dr Simon Jackson (Birmingham).

Dr Joanna Warson (Portsmouth) presenting her topic on France in Anglophone Africa, chaired by Dr Simon Jackson (Birmingham).

On 27th and 28th August 2014, the Centre for French History and Culture of the School of History hosted a conference entitled “France and its Global Histories: State of the Field”. The workshop was generously supported by the Institut français du Royaume-Uni, represented by Dr Catherine Robert during the event.

The purpose of the conference was to offer new perspectives on French history, and on the role global history could play in tackling new historiographical issues relating to France’s past. Panels were diverse and discussed themes such as “Race, Gender, and Class” or the problem of scale in French history, attempting to redefine the themes of Empire, Postcolonialism or Circulation. In total, five panels were held throughout the two days and were chaired by Dr Stephen TyreDr Akhila YechuryMr Jordan GirardinDr Sarah Easterby-Smith (all from St Andrews) and Dr Simon Jackson from Birmingham.

It is safe to say that a particular strength of this conference was the diversity of its speakers. A few came from afar (the award for longest journey going to Pr Tyler Stovall flying all the way from Berkeley), with others coming from a number of different British universities, while the Centre’s former Visiting Fellow Dr Junko Takeda joined the conversation via Skype from Syracuse. The question of nationality and language was also raised: with a very small minority of attendees being born and raised in France, how did this conference still manage to lead a convincing discussion on how the history of France should be written? A long roundtable discussion was held at the very end of the second day, establishing that French history could indeed find its future through pluridisciplinary studies.

This conference provided an opportunity to remind attendees of the School’s research potential in terms of multidisciplinary approaches. Although the event was fully organised and run by the Centre for French History and Culture, the Centre for Transnational History (as of the start of this month, the Institute for Transnational History) was mentioned multiple times as one of the potential collaborators in order to offer new ways to write French history. Overall, the conference was an excellent start to this new academic year and we can expect more projects to emerge from the Centre for French History.

Report kindly provided by Jordan Girardin.