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 Politics, Dr 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.