Research projects

I am currently pursuing research in three areas.

1. Eric Hobsbawm and the history of global Marxism

Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012) was one of the most important British historians of the twentieth century. In my work, I bring out different aspects of Hobsbawm's 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 Marxism.

Hobsbawm in Brazil in 1975
Hobsbawm in Brazil in 1975

The goal is to produce the first intellectual biography of Hobsbawm, to be published by Harvard University Press. By combining a close reading of Hobsbawm's published work with an examination of personal papers, institutional archives, oral history, and ethnographic material, the book will address key themes in twentieth-century political history, including the role of the intellectual in European public life, the global imagination of Marxist activists, and the stylistic foundations that underpin successful historical writing.

Alongside the book project, I recently launched the Eric Hobsbawm Bibliography, which is the first comprehensive, text-searchable bibliography of Hobsbawm's published and unpublished works.

I received a Carnegie Trust of Scotland Research Incentive Grant for the initial stages of my research on Hobsbawm. I was subsequently awarded an AHRC Leadership Fellowship in 2017. The Fellowship gave me substantial research time over the period of the grant (2017-9) and additional funds for fieldwork. Further details about the fellowship are available on the Gateway to Research website.

2. Twentieth-century France

My first monograph, entitled A Divided Republic: nation, state and citizenship in contemporary France (Cambridge University Press, 2015) examined 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 suggested in my book that contemporary French politics has been defined by a struggle between an explicitly 'nationalist' language of neo-republicanism and a more 'open' language of liberalism.

I continue to work on different aspects of French history and politics. My research ranges across a variety of fields, from the intellectual history of post-war France to close-grained archival and ethnographic work on postcolonial identity politics in the south of France.

Cover image for 'France'

I bring together many of these strands in my latest book, France (Polity Press, 2020), which is a short introduction to French history since 1940. The book starts by considering France as a "paradoxical" country, in which grand ideals and abstract values have repeatedly run up against the hard realities of a bitterly divided country. Over the course of six chapters, I look at a number of contradictions within recent French history, including the tension between defeat and resistance, state and citizen, and colonialism and anti-colonialism. Starting with the calamitous defeat by Hitler's armies in 1940 and ending with the spectacular gilets jaunes protests and the COVID-19 pandemic, the picture that emerges is one of a nation struggling to reconcile its history with the competing demands of an increasingly diverse society.

I also remain committed to a broader project of reconceptualising contemporary European politics. This has led to frequent collaborations in the form of conferences, seminars, and journal special issues. Shortly after finishing my PhD, I brought together a group of scholars for an international workshop held at the Maison Française d'Oxford. This resulted in an edited book - entitled France since the 1970s: history, politics and memory in an age of uncertainty - in which the contributors offered new perspectives and approaches to contemporary political issues. More recently, I have coordinated special issues on contemporary French politics for the journals Modern and Contemporary France and French History.

For a quick introduction to my research on France, see my 'Research in a Nutshell' video or my 2015 Edinburgh Festival lecture on contemporary French politics.

I received postgraduate funding for my work on France from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (for my Masters and PhD). Since then, I have been supported by small grants from the Society for the Study of French History, the John Fell Fund at the University of Oxford, the Society for French Studies, St John's College (Cambridge) and Trinity College (Cambridge).

3. Migration, immigration and state rationality

My third area of interest is migration and citizenship in Europe. I was a co-investigator on a large ESRC-funded project entitled 'Seeing Illegal Immigrants: state monitoring and political rationality' with fellow investigator Christina Boswell. The aim of the project, which ran from 2016 to 2018, was to understand better how and why European states gather data about 'illegal' migration and how this has changed since the 1970s. The project team was made up of three postdoctoral researchers from the US, France and Germany. We have already begun to publish findings from our research, but further publications will follow now that the project is complete.

Document from the UK National Archives that show policymakers' use of the term 'evasion' in relation to immigration Document from the UK National Archives that show policymakers' use of the term 'evasion' in relation to immigration Document from the UK National Archives that show policymakers' use of the term 'evasion' in relation to immigration
Archival documents from the 1960s that show UK policymakers' use of the term 'evasion' in relation to immigration

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 found here.