The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and the Challenge of a New World Order

A major international conference revisiting the peace-making of 1919 will be held in Paris in June 1919, marking the centennial of the signature of the Treaty of Versailles. The Paris Peace Conference PDF contains details of the call for papers, inviting paper proposals from multiple global perspectives.

New Centre Affiliate Fellow

The Centre is delighted to welcome a new Affiliate Fellow, Dr Sharon Crozier-De Rosa, who will visit Exeter for research presentations and collaborations, next academic year.

Sharon is a Senior Lecturer in History in the School of Humanities and Social Inquiry at the University of Wollongong (UOW), Australia. Before taking up this position in 2012, she was an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute, Deakin University.

Affiliate Fellow, Dr Sharon Crozier-De Rosa 

Her research examines the historical intersections between feminisms, nationalisms, imperialism, and emotions. She focuses particularly on: gender, emotions, and violence; feminist ethics of violence; gendered dimensions of honour and shame; and, imperial and anti-colonial feminisms. Her research crosses Britain, Australia, USA, and Ireland.

She is currently completing two book projects:

  • Shame and the Anti-Feminist Backlash: Britain, Ireland and Australia, 1890-1920 (Routledge, 2018)
  • Remembering Women’s Activism (co-authored Prof. Vera Mackie, Routledge, 2018)

Her past publications include a monograph, The Middle-Class Novels of Arnold Bennett and Marie Corelli: Realising the Ideals and Emotions of Late Victorian Women (2010) and a co-edited book, Changing the Victorian Subject (2014).

She is the immediate past National Co-Convenor of the Australian Women’s History Network (AWHN), past recipient of the AWHN’s award for the best article by an Early Career Researcher on women’s history in Australia, and current Co-Convenor of UOW’s Feminist Research Network. She continues to serve on the Editorial Board of the AWHN’s journal, Lilith: A Feminist History Journal.

More details of Sharon’s research can be found:


Defence researchers connect from Exeter to St Andrews

31 August 2017

It was back in late 2016 that one of our Doctoral College emails mentioned that some SWDTC PhD students were looking to bring together those with a common interest in military and defence research. I feared the historical nature of my research might render me the odd one out, but I am also interested in the contemporary implications of areas of my research, such as inter-service rivalry in the military and the destabilising effect of new organisations being created within a settled structure. Anyway, I like to network and it turned out that I was more than welcome and a first meeting was organised at Bath.

The breadth of research within a group of just ten or so postgraduate researchers indicated that what we were creating was going to be something of a broad church. Ably corralled by the instigator of the project, Hannah West, who is an ex military officer like me, we agreed on our aims and early objectives, although choosing a name and descriptor took a little longer. Ultimately, we chose to create the ‘Defence Research Network’ and to describe it as: ‘A newly established defence research network group established for PhD and early-career researchers on defence, security and the Armed Forces in relation to policy, strategy, culture and society.’

It turned out that the majority of those who were to form the committee were women, which nicely contrasted with our experiences of male-dominated conferences and panels on military and defence related issues, both in the academic world and in the thinktank and ‘thinking military’ arenas. We set about finding more contacts to invite to join. A lesson to both departments and individual PGRs: make sure your student profiles are up-to-date and presentably complete. We had each been allocated a couple of departments at other universities and tasked to review their websites to identify any potential DRN joiners (we were well aware that not everyone reads their weekly update emails from departments and doctoral colleges). I’ve not spent a lot of time looking at profiles until now, but there were many you would not want a colleague, potential employer or fellow conference attendee to find via a quick google search.

We decided to hold an initial seminar at Bristol in May and were extremely grateful to get funding from SWDTC. Cutting to the chase, the event itself was well-attended, successful and absolutely fascinating. The range of research areas the seminar brought together was impressive – from education of service children, to militarism in post-Soviet Russia, women in counter-insurgency, and drone warfare and American identity, to name just a handful. As is so often the case, learning about research in a field apparently remote to my own led to fascinating insights which were directly relevant to my work. For example, one fellow PGR is taking a historical approach to defence acquisition and, as we discovered in discussion, delving, like me, into networks in government and defence, but with a completely different approach.

Responsible for gleaning feedback, I was pleased so many attendees took the time to respond afterwards and what I found most interesting was that fellow researchers overwhelmingly wanted the DRN to remain this broad and representative of so many disciplines; this was seen by all to be a real strength. PGRs from across the UK, from St Andrews to Exeter, have been connected and now we look forward to planning more face-to-face events with a view to holding a conference next year.

Do follow us on Twitter (@DefenceResNet) or find out more at:

Understanding Insurgencies: Resonances from the Colonial Past

Paris Research Workshop, December 2016

Hosted by Emmanuel Blanchard of the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin/Sciences

Po Saint-Germain, the second Leverhulme Trust workshop on Understanding Insurgencies was held in Paris on 15-16 December 2016. The workshop was themed around the issues of laws of war and targets of violence. It convened at University of Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne’s Centre Mahler on the 15th and the Sorbonne’s Maison de la recherche on the 16th. Read more.

'Embassies in Crisis' one-day conference

25 April 2016

Embassies have long been integral to international diplomacy, their staff instrumental to inter-governmental dialogue, strategic partnerships, trading relationships and cultural exchange. But Embassies are also discrete political spaces. Notionally sovereign territory ‘immune’ from local jurisdiction, in moments of crisis Embassies have often been targets of protest and sites of confrontation. It is this aspect of Embassy experience that this conference explores. 

The 'Embassies in Crisis' conference will revisit flashpoints in the recent lives of Embassies overseas. Much of the focus will be on Britain’s Embassies, but several papers will also consider other instances of Embassies in crisis, whether British or otherwise. Serving and former British Ambassadors will be presenting as ‘witnesses’ alongside invited academics who have been invited to discuss dramatic instances of international confrontation or mass demonstration that placed particular nations, their capitals, and the Embassies they housed in the global spotlight.  

Key themes include: 

  • The Embassy as a political space whose juridical status promotes frank discussion; 
  • The Embassy as a symbolic space, a haven whose non-violability may be challenged in moments of crisis; 
  • The Embassy as a prism whose specialist personnel gain a unique vantage point onto local politics and society; 
  • The Embassy as an analytical filter, its staff identifying key developments amongst the background noise of day-to-day political life; 
  • The Embassy as the ‘FCO overseas’, both a foreign policy hub and a part of a global diplomatic network; 
  • The Embassy as a community both for its own staff but, more widely, for fellow nationals, for commercial and cultural partners, and for the forms of governance it promotes; 
  • The Embassy as redoubt, in moments of crisis especially, its operational presence confirming the strategic objectives of the nation it represents.

Attendance at the conference is free but pre-registration via Eventbrite is required. The conference will be held in London at the British Academy, on Thursday 9 June 2016.

For more information about the conference, please see the draft programme.

The Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association postgraduate study grant in First World War Studies

20 April 2016

The Centre for the Study of War, State and Society (CWSS) is delighted to announce details of a new award made available by the Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association.

Founded in 1980, the Western Front Association works to sustain interest in, and understanding of, all facets of the Great War. The Wessex Branch of the Association is pleased to offer an award of £250, which is available to University of Exeter postgraduate students researching the First World War.

The award is open to any full or part-time postgraduate research students enrolled at the University of Exeter as of September 2016. Applications, which require the completion of a two-page application form and accompanying CV, must be made direct to CWSS at the Director’s email address given below. The closing date for this year’s round of applications is 30 September 2016. 

Potential applicants are invited to contact Professor Martin Thomas, CWSS director, for further details.

Workshop announcement: Snapshots of Empire

13 April 2016

The University of Sussex is to hold a one-day workshop on Friday 2 September as part of the project Snapshots of Empire: Governing a Diverse Empire Everywhere and All at Once

The workshop will focus on imperial administration and governance; infrastructures of communication and connection across empire/s; relationships between bureaucracies in London and colonial relations in different sites of the British empire; changing and integrating imperial historiographies; working across different scales in colonial studies; governing mobility across empire/s; and legacies of imperial forms of government.

For more information and to register, please see the project webpage or download the Snapshots of Empire workshop programme

Call for papers for one-day conference on 'Embassies in Crisis'

5 February 2016

The Universities of Exeter and Strathclyde, in conjunction with the FCO Historians and the British International History Group, are to hold a one-day conference on the subject of Embassies in Crisis. The conference will be held at the British Academy on 9 June 2016. Papers are welcomed that discuss instances of international confrontation or mass demonstration, past and present, that placed particular Embassies in the global spotlight.

For more information, please dowload the call for papers: 

Call for papers for one-day conference on Embassies in Crisis

New Centre Affiliate Fellow

15 January 2016

New Centre Affiliate Fellow, Dr Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo of the Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Lisbon.

Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo (PhD King’s College London, 2008) is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Studies-University of Coimbra, and an Assistant Professor at the New University of Lisbon (Portugal). He was a researcher at European University Institute (2008), a Visiting Assistant Professor at Brown University (2011 and 2012) and a Visiting Scholar at King’s College London (2012-2013).

His research interests focus on the comparative and connected histories of imperialism and colonialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Recently, he has been working on themes including the politics of difference in European colonial empires, the historical intersections between internationalism and imperialism, and the entanglements of programmes and repertoires of development with coercive practices of social control in late European colonial empires.

In 2010 he published Livros Brancos, Almas Negras. A “Missão Civilizadora” do Colonialismo Português, c. 1870-1930. In 2012 he published A Diplomacia do Imperialismo. Política e Religião na Partilha de África (1820-1890) and edited O Império Colonial em Questão. In 2014 he co-edited Portugal e o fim do Colonialismo. Dimensões internacionais. More recently, his work has appeared in English, with the publication, in 2015, of The ends of European colonial empires: Cases and comparisons and The “Civilizing Mission” of Portuguese Colonialism (c.1870-1930) (both book published with Palgrave-Macmillan). He is the coordinator of the international collective research project Internationalism and Empire: The Politics of Difference in the Portuguese Colonial Empire in Comparative Perspective (1920-1975). He is also co-editor of the book series História&Sociedade at Edições 70.

More details of Miguel's research can be found on his academic profile

Archives of rescue and rebuilding: photograph albums of relief workers amongst Armenian survivors, 1919-1935

13 January 2016

Centre member Dr Becky Jinks has explored the photographic archives of European and American relief workers working in the Near East in the aftermath of World War One to help reconstruct the experiences of survivors of the Armenian genocide. Becky is to discuss her research on these unique records at the Wiener Library in London, on Wednesday the 13th of January. 

More information about the event can be found on the Wiener Library website.

Upcoming April 2016 conference at Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, on 'The Great War and the Middle East'

11 January 2016

This major international conference, organised jointly by the War Studies Department of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the Changing Character of War Programme at the University of Oxford, will re-examine the origins, conduct and consequences of the First World War in the Middle East. The voluminous historiography of the conflict remains, however, focused on the European experience of 1914-18. This conference brings together historians of the Middle East and the First World War to discuss this formative event and to relate the Great War to the broader period of conflict that affected the Ottoman Empire from 1911 to 1923.

For more information about the April 2016 conference, download The Great War and the Middle East conference programme.

From Cote d'Ivoire to Korea: Autumn-term workshops at CWSS

7 January 2016

We thank Oxford-Princeton Global Leaders Fellow, Dr Peace Medie (University of Legon, Ghana), for giving generously her time to a jointly hosted CWSS/Centre for Imperial and Global History workshop on post-war responses to sexual violence in West Africa. The afternoon began with a student-reading group: undergraduates and PGRs turned out in large numbers to learn from Dr Medie’s research with war-affected women. Dr Medie then presented her important new project on security and justice in Cote d'Ivoire: her fieldwork explores the local-cultural contexts that often inhibit criminal prosecutions of rape and sexual assault, in post-conflict societies.

Legacies of war – and state/popular responses to conflict – were themes discussed further in our next autumn-term seminar, 'Anglo-American Perspectives on the Korean War'. Focusing on policy-making by Truman, Atlee and US/UK national-security managers, Professor in International Politics, Inderjeet Parmar (City University), analysed the racial, imperial and liberal-internationalist principles underlying the conflict of 1950-53. Complementing Prof Parmar’s paper on elite discourses on Korea, historian Dr Grace Huxford (University of Bristol) used the Mass Observation Archive – and other indicators of public opinion – to explore the war’s complex hold on the British popular imagination. Together, these fascinating talks on the 'forgotten war' in Korea prompted a wide-ranging Q&A on models of remembrance, the media, and 'military Orientalism'. We thank Prof Parmar and Dr Huxford for sharing their work with CWSS.

‌Image: Dr Grace Huxford (left) and Professor Inderjeet Parmar (right)

Launch of the Research Exchange

4 January 2016

Book cover of 'Everyday Violence in the Irish Civil War' by Dr Gemma Clark‌A new initiative for 2015-16, the CWSS Research Exchange provides an informal space for colleagues and PGRs to share current projects and make cross-university connections on various aspects of social conflict. In our first meeting, Lecturer in British and Irish History, Dr Gemma Clark, spoke to her interests in civil warfare. Drawing primarily on her 2014 publication, Everyday Violence in the Irish Civil War, Gemma used the Irish case study to open discussion on many of the Centre's key research concerns – civilianisation and sexual violence during intra-state war, for example, and modes of persecution and intimidation in ethnic/territorial conflicts.

Next to address the Exchange was History PhD student, Idir Ouahes. Idir’s thesis, ‘Method of the Mandate: Cultural Institutions in French Lebanon and Syria, 1920-1925’, focuses on the crucial, but hitherto historically neglected, period between two core events in modern Syria – the 1920 crushing of Emir Faisal's Damascus Republic and the outbreak of the Great Syrian Revolt five years later. Idir thus raised issues – of periodisation and archival access – highly pertinent to those many members of the Centre currently researching colonial governance and insurgency.

If you would like to contribute to the Research Exchange and/or be added to the CWSS mailing list, please contact Gemma Clark or Prof Martin Thomas.

Leverhulme Trust Grant success

10 December 2015

The Leverhulme Trust has awarded Exeter's Centre for War, State and Society £116,833 for a three-year project: Understanding Insurgencies: Resonances from the Colonial Past. The project will support a network of seven University partners in the UK and overseas. These are CWSS Exeter, the University of Oxford, the University of Warwick, the University of Glasgow, CNRS Paris, the Université de Québec, Montreal, and the Royal Netherlands Institute of South East Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), Leiden.

Based on a series of themed workshops, the network will allow specialist scholars from the UK and overseas to refine ideas about the nature of late colonial conflict, the ways on which colonial security forces responded to it, and the ensuing patterns of violence, rights abuses, and legacies of inter-communal distrust that resulted.

The contemporary resonances of these themes appear stronger than ever in light of current instability throughout much of the former colonial world, the proliferation of terrorist attacks, and the abundant evidence, on the one hand, of transnational connection between insurgent movements and, on the other hand, of international coalition building between counter-insurgent security forces. The network, then, aims to provide useful thematic pointers and detailed cross-regional insights into insurgencies and those assigned to suppress them.

A History of Conflict in the two Sudans: CWSS seminar

30 October 2015

In October, the Centre was delighted to welcome to Exeter two scholars of twentieth-century Africa to speak on the history of conflict in the two Sudans.

Drawing on the findings of his new book, Darfur: Colonial violence, Sultanic Legacies and Local PoliticsDr Chris Vaughan explained that whilst mass killing on the scale of the Darfur Genocide had not been seen before 2003, Sudanese state violence also emerged from long traditions of coercive colonial control built on local political alliances. Dr Douglas Johnson, author of Nuer Prophets (1994) and The Root Causes of Sudan's Civil Wars (2003), similarly encouraged us to look beyond interpretations of contemporary South Sudan as simply a failed state embroiled in ethnic war – and see instead the complex historical legacies (of the 1983–2005 Civil War) in the fighting that occurs today.

We thank the speakers for two papers that provoked rich discussion on wide topics including the character of the colonial state, the civilianization of modern warfare, child soldiering and comparative civil war.

Image: Dr Douglas Johnson (left) and Dr Chris Vaughan (right)

Lisbon workshop

23 October 2015

Martin Thomas was invited to the University of Lisbon in October 2015 where he led a research workshop on Violence, Insurgency, and the End of Empire. The study of colonial insurgencies and civil war has become a major focus of the Centre's work and also involves colleagues from Exeter's Strategy and Security Institute.

Embassy research conference

8 October 2015

Centre members Martin Thomas and Richard Toye will be speaking at a one-day research conference at the UK Embassy in Paris on Friday 16 October 2015. They will be presenting research findings from their Leverhulme Trust-funded project on The Rhetoric of Empire. The conference, which brings together French and British historians with serving diplomats and politicians, revisits Franco-British relations during World War Two. Please see the Paris Embassy conference programme attached.

CWSS welcomes a new colleague

14 September 2015

Becky Jinks’ research focuses on comparative genocide and, more recently, on interwar humanitarianism.

Her PhD, which she received from Royal Holloway, University of London in 2013, is a comparative historical study of cultural and social narratives about, and representations of, genocide in Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia, seen against the so-called ‘template’ of Holocaust memory. It analyses literature, film, photography, and the memorialisation of these five genocides in order to show how deeply the representation of the Holocaust has influenced the representation of other genocides, which goes some way to explaining the Holocaust’s continued status as a ‘benchmark’ for other genocides in the West. This work, under contract with Bloomsbury, opens up a new field of research which critically compares representations of genocides and other atrocities in order to explore how the western public understands and responds to such events.

Whilst researching her PhD at the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute in Yerevan, Armenia, she came across the photograph albums of Danish relief worker Karen Jeppe, who worked for the League of Nations in Aleppo in the 1920s, rescuing Armenians who had been ‘absorbed’ into Turkish, Kurdish, or Bedouin households during the genocide of 1915. Alongside photographs of her work with refugees, orphans, and the desert, Jeppe’s albums contain startling images of women whose faces and hands had been tattooed, according to Bedouin custom. They thus bore on their skin visible, permanent reminders of their ‘defilement’, a major taboo among Armenians and a source of much horror for many of the European and American relief workers in the Near East. Using private papers and photograph collections, institutional records, and contemporary fundraising magazines, a long article currently undergoing peer review shows how the plight of these women went to the heart of the rescuers’ humanitarian dilemma: their visible ‘contamination’ made the desire to restore them to the Armenian ‘nation’ a problematic and perhaps impossible goal.  

Becky’s current book-length research project has grown out of this shorter project: it is a social historical study of humanitarianism which looks at the (usually young) European and American men and women who, following WWI, took advantage of the new opportunity the war afforded them to travel and see the world by signing up to humanitarian relief operations. This book (and spin-off articles) will thus make a contribution to the currently developing field of the history of humanitarianism, while also offering a distinct optic, in that existing work tends to focus on discrete events, individuals or organisations. In contrast, this research looks at the foot-soldiers of humanitarianism, their lifeworlds and understandings of what they were involved in, and explores how they contributed, as agents of change, to the evolution of the overarching goals and ideals of humanitarian organisations.

New colleague joins the Centre

8 September 2015

Brian’s primary research interest lies in the impact of the Irish Revolution (c. 1913-1923) on individuals and communities. He is most interested in violence in terms of its nature, victims and influence on local communities. He also investigates civilian behaviour, popular support and loyalty during irregular conflict. He has published on the 1916 Easter Rising and worked on two digital history projects based around the Rising: ‘Letters of 1916: Creating History’ and ‘Contested Memories: the Battle of Mount Street Bridge’.

Brian is currently working on a monograph, Defying the IRA: intimidation, coercion and communities during the Irish Revolution. The book will explore Irish Republican Army, focusing on violence, threat and punishment against civilians at a community level from 1917 to the outbreak of Civil War in mid-1922. With his colleague, Dr Fergus Robson, he is also preparing an edited volume of essays arising from a workshop held at Trinity College Dublin in spring 2015 entitled ‘Unconventional Warfare: guerrillas and counter-insurgency from Iraq to Antiquity’.


Centre affiliate organises Jacques Foccart conference

12 February 2015

In much of Francophone Africa below the Sahara where relatively little armed conflict preceded self-rule, surreptitious French political, economic and strategic predominance subsisted well into the 1970s. Its preservation hinged to a remarkable extent on the efforts of a single individual: Jacques Foccart.

A former Gaullist political organiser and covert operations specialist with close links to the French intelligence community, Foccart served as chief policy consultant on African affairs during the Presidencies of Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou.

Foccart’s powerful coterie of Africa specialists enjoyed backdoor access to the Elysée Palace, an influence matched by their close rapport with several of French Africa’s more autocratic rulers in the first generation after formal independence.

Foccart's extensive private papers, held at the French national archives are a major resource for scholars interested in the secret workings of post-colonial influence in much of West and Central Africa.

Jean-Pierre Bat, an affiliated research fellow of Exeter's Centre for War, State and Society, has helped organise a two-centre conference, which will be held at the French National Archives and the University of Paris-Sorbonne on 26 and 27 March to mark the release of these materials. Details are available in the attached publicity flyer and poster. More information about Foccart can be found in Bat's Jacques Foccart article - Jean-Pierre Bat

Centre student wins Santander research award

20 January 2015

Rachel Chin, a second-year PhD student attached to The Rhetoric of Empire research project, has been awarded one of sixteen Santander postgraduate research awards. Rachel is currently researching rhetorical aspects of shift from partnership to confrontation in Franco-British international and imperial affairs in the critical early Second World War years that were bisected by France’s defeat.

The award will be used to fund three weeks of research at the Archives Nationales and the Ministère des Affaires Étrangères La Courneuve research centre in Paris. There, Rachel will be looking at press accounts and propaganda materials, diplomatic correspondence, and French prefects’ reports related to the evaluation of domestic public opinion. These will be used to evaluate official and popular responses to landmark imperial crises that impacted French perceptions of their British neighbours. Crucially, her comparative research will shed light on this complex relationship between Europe’s two leading imperial powers by focusing not simply on the events themselves, but on how they were depicted and interpreted at the time, both within intimate policy-making circles as well as by the broader French press and public.

CWSS postgraduate wins prestigious thesis prize

9 December 2014

Laure Humbert's doctoral dissertation From 'Soup-kitchen' Charity to Humanitarian Expertise? France, the United Nations and the Displaced Persons Problem in post-war Germany has recently been awarded the British International History Group (BIHG) thesis prize for 2014. The thesis was supervised by Professor Martin Thomas and Professor Richard Overy and was examined by Professor Patricia Clavin (Oxford) and Professor Richard Toye earlier this year.

This thesis is a study of the ways in which Liberated France approached the problem of Eastern European Displaced Persons (DPs) in the French Zone of Occupation in post-war Germany in cooperation with newly created UN agencies, among them the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and later the International Refugee Organization (IRO). Drawing on a wide range of archival documents from French, British, German and the UN archives in New York, it breaks new ground by demonstrating that distinctive diplomatic constraints, economic requirements and cultural differences influenced the thought and practices of refugee humanitarianism and shaped alternate ways of arranging interim provision and 'rehabilitating' DPs in the French zone.

The core arguments of the thesis thus contribute to debates on nationalism, internationalism and refugee humanitarianism in the mid-twentieth century. By underlining the extent to which nationalism and ethnocentrism shaped the definition of suffering and Allied responses to the DP crisis, Laure's research points to the difficulty of reconciling post-war humanitarianism’s emphasis on notions of human rights and 'shared humanity' with the reality of their implementation. Furthermore, by tracing how far the UN project was domesticated in the French zone not as an expression of a newly globalised humanitarian enterprise but rather as a form of nationalism, her work underlines some of the paradoxical and ambiguous elements of the post-war international refugee project.

CWSS welcomes a new colleague

14 November 2014

Dr Gemma Clark will be joining the Centre for War, State and Society in the New Year. Read more about Dr Clark's work below:

Research interests

Gemma Clark’s research concerns conflict in modern British and Irish history; she addresses both conventional warfare and the use of violence – by and against civilians – in times of relative peace.

She developed her interests during her BA and postgraduate studies at the Queen’s College, Oxford, from where she graduated with a DPhil in 2011.

Her new book, Everyday Violence in the Irish Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), draws on the research she carried out for her doctorate on the conflict (1922-23) over the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Whilst Ireland’s civil war was restrained in comparison with the grotesque paramilitary violence carried out in revolutionised Central Europe around the time, Gemma argues that great cruelties nonetheless were committed by and against soldiers, civilians and revolutionaries throughout the Irish conflict. Arson, intimidation and murder served to force land redistribution and to purge ‘disloyal’ religious and political minorities (namely Protestants, Unionists and former representatives of the British administration in Ireland) from the newly established Irish Free State.

During 2012-2014, Gemma held a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Global Irish Studies Centre, UNSW Australia. In Sydney, her research focused on a harmful act – arson – prominent not only during the Civil War, but also during other periods of Irish unrest. Indeed, whilst arson has long been the subject of applied research directed towards fire safety and prevention, Gemma’s research adds to recent works of history and social science that pay scholarly attention to the development of criminal fire setting as a social and political protest tool. In a book chapter submitted to Liverpool University Press, for example, Gemma analyses the role played by arson during early-nineteenth-century peaks of rural agitation in Ireland, thus placing the apparent Irish propensity for property damage in a wider socio-legal framework.

Gemma also contextualises Irish arson and has presented on the relative scarcity, compared with mainland Europe and the USA, of lethal and interracial arson in Ireland. She plans further to explore these vital research questions in her new post, at Exeter; she hopes also, through collaboration with CWSS and History colleagues, to expand her ‘History of Arson in Modern Ireland’ by addressing the dissemination of incendiarism – and other modes of violence and protest – via Britain and Ireland’s global and imperial networks.

Colonial Counterinsurgency conference

7 August 2014

Organised by Professor Martin Thomas and Dr Gareth Curless, this conference on the history of counterinsurgency and empire will be hosted by the Centre for War, State and Society and is supported by a University of Exeter HASS Project Development award. The Conference will take place in the Strategy and Security Institute's Knightley Building and will begin at 9:00am on Thursday 18 September. For more information please see our conferences page, and to register for the conference please visit our online store.


PhD student to receive Economic History Society grant

7 July 2014

Rachel Chin, the holder of one of two PhD studentship awards attached to the Leverhulme Trust-funded Rhetoric of Empire project, has secured a research grant from the Economic History Society to pursue further research in UK private paper archives.

The award will be used for two five-day research trips to the archives centre at Churchill College, Cambridge, where Rachel will be examining the personal papers of figures such as Leo Amery, Alexander Cadogan, and Admiral James Somerville. These individuals played prominent roles in the shaping, undertaking, or representation of British policy during the Second World War. Specifically, Rachel will examine their diaries and correspondence for insight into the connections between their private thinking and public sentiment about empire and war as observed during this period.

As Rachel says, the research “will enable me to understand how the individual beliefs and cognitive structures of these men influenced how they contributed to and/or carried out the policy-making process not only as leaders but also as members of a broader society receptive to shifting cultural currents of opinion.”

War, State and Society Historian discusses China's War with Japan

9 May 2014

Dr Tehyun Ma, lecturer in Chinese History, was one of three historians invited to discuss the causes and consequences of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45 on Radio 4's 'In Our Time'. In the programme, broadcast on 8 May 2014, Dr Ma appeared alongside Professor Rana Mitter of Oxford University and Dr Barak Kushner of Cambridge. Along with the programme's presenter Melvyn Bragg, the trio considered the war's impact on Chinese society and politics, its connections with China's civil war, and its longer-term legacies for China's place in global affairs. You can listen to the programme and download it as a podcast on the BBC website for 'In Our Time'.

Centre Director, Martin Thomas, also contributed to another recent Radio 4 programme, 'The Siege of Dien Bien Phu', in which Professor Julian Jackson of Queen Mary, University of London, described the long-running 1954 battle that marked the culmination of Vietnam's war for independence from French colonial control. A podcast of this programme is also available to listen to and download from the BBC World Service website.

Centre to host two-day conference on The Rhetoric of Empire, 22–23 May 2014

6 May 2014

The Centre for War, State and Society, in partnership with Exeter's Imperial and Global History Centre, will be hosting a two-day conference, The Rhetoric of Empire: Imperial Discourse and the Language of Colonial Conflict, on Thursday 22 and Friday 23 May 2014. The conference will take place at Reed Hall, University of Exeter. Among others, the speakers include Professor Elizabeth Buettner of the University of Amsterdam, Professor Martin Shipway of Birkbeck, University of London, and Dr Camilla Schofield of the University of East Anglia. Full details of the conference are available on the Centre's conferences webpage.


Award winning historian Antony Beevor to deliver public lecture at Exeter

5 March 2014

The Centre for the Study of War, State and Society will host the award winning historian Antony Beevor on 26 March 2014. He will deliver a seminar for staff and postgraduate students only on writing for a popular audience before giving a public lecture entitled 'Global Aspects of the Second World War' at 5pm in Queen's Lecture Theatre 1. The lecture is a free event open to all. For space enquiries about the staff and postgraduate student seminar, please contact Dr Laura Rowe.

Antony Beevor has published four novels, and ten books of non-fiction. His work has appeared in more than thirty foreign editions and sold nearly six million copies. His most recent book, The Second World War, was published in June 2012 and has already been a number one bestseller in Britain and four other countries.

For more information, please see the College news story.

Photograph by John Carey


Introducing Jean-Pierre Bat, Honorary Research Associate

7 February 2014

Dr Jean-Pierre Bat has become an Honorary Research Associate at the Centre for War, State and Society. Read more about Dr Bat's work below:

Research interests

Standing at the intersection between the political history of contemporary Africa and Intelligence Studies, my work focuses on connections between intelligence activities and decolonization in Francophone Africa over the course of the twentieth century. The figure of Jacques Foccart, widely considered as the founder of "Françafrique", stands at the core of my research. Eager to broaden the scope of study into colonial policing promoted by the Colonial and Postcolonial Policing Group (COPP), I helped establish the Groupe d'études des mondes policiers en Afrique (GEMPA – Study Group on the World of Policing in Africa) whose principal preoccupation is to investigate the nature of order and disorder in the colonial empires of Africa and Asia.

I have been seconded to the French National Archives since 2011 with responsibility for the archives of the Presidency of the Fourth Republic, of the French Union (of 1946-58), and the records of Jacques Foccart’s ‘African cell’ (cellule Afrique) in the years 1958 to 1974. In tandem with this, I am also a research affiliate of the CNRS (Institut des mondes africains).

Current teaching

  • Université Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne, séminaire de master d'histoire de l'Afrique XIX-XXIe s. (avec le Pr. Pierre Vermeren).
  • Ecole du Louvre, cours d'histoire de l'Europe au XXe siècle.

Principal publications

Bat, Jean-Pierre, Le syndrome Foccart. La politique française en Afrique depuis 1959, Paris, Gallimard, 2012.
Bat, Jean-Pierre et Courtin, Nicoles, Maintenir l'ordre colonial, Rennes, PUR, 2012 (projet fondateur du GEMPA).


I may be contacted at

'The Bombing War' shortlisted for new US military history prize

15 January 2014

Professor Richard Overy's book The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945 has been recognised on the shortlist of the inaugural Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History. The prize will be awarded annually to the best book in the field of military history published in English during the previous calendar year.

The new prize is intended to draw public attention to military history not only as an important staple of education in the areas of international relations, diplomacy, and conflict studies, but also as a subject in which any educated citizen should be interested. The study of steps to war, the conduct of military campaigns, and diplomatic responses to war can play an essential role in the quest for a more peaceable future. 

The inaugural prize will be awarded in a ceremony in New York City on the 17th of March.

For more information, please see the History news story.

Professor Martin Thomas to deliver keynote lecture at the Brussels Royal Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts

12–13 December 2013

Martin Thomas will be giving the keynote lecture at a conference on 'Policing Empires: Social Control, Political Transition, (Post)-Colonial Legacies' at the Brussels Royal Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts. A large international conference bringing together historians, political scientists and cultural anthropologists working on multiple aspects of colonial policing and anti-colonial dissent, the conference takes place on 12–13 December 2013. More details are available at the Université catholique de Louvain website.

Workshop: 'China in War and Cold War, 1937–55'

6 November 2013

The Centre for the Study of War, State and Society will host a workshop on 'China in War and Cold War, 1937–55', with speakers Professor Rana Mitter (University of Oxford) and Dr Tehyun Ma (University of Exeter). For more information about the event, please see our workshops and seminars page, or download our workshop poster.

Former Centre student's publications in the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History

13 October 2013

Former Centre student, Edmund Clipson, who completed his PhD on the British security services in colonial Burma in 2010, is to publish some of his findings in the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. Edmund describes his upcoming article thus:

"In 1933 the British Colonial Government in Burma set about constructing an intelligence bureau that would report on the activity of indigenous Burmese throughout the country. This was done with a view to preventing an uprising against colonial rule. In order to receive reliable information on events in Burma the administration was forced to build relationships with informants in Burmese society, which was an often difficult process. However, by 1935 the British in Burma had established a functioning intelligence bureau which provided the government with a great deal of information about the political activity of the country. My article examines these processes in action, tracing the links between the development of organised anti-colonial opposition and a new style of intelligence-driven policing within the colony on the eve of the Second World War."