I am currently working on a two-year Royal Society of Edinburgh Network on ‘Relations between Britain and France in World War Two’, with Dr Rogelia Pastor-Castro.
The network will contribute substantially to understanding the wider long-term significance of the relationship forged between the UK and France during the Second World War. It will inform current debates about contemporary international, diplomatic, military and security challenges, offering a source of expertise to interested stakeholders.
The central theme of the network is to explore the tensions, influences and experiences that shaped and defined the relationship between the UK and France during the war. As allies in the First World War and as states with similar democratic traditions, levels of military and economic strength and global interests, the relationship between Britain and France was critical to the survival and future of both countries. The network’s distinctiveness lies in its close engagement with officials from the foreign policy community, including serving and past diplomats, the Foreign Office, as well as French and British defence policy-making and military staff.
- To challenge existing historical approaches to the Second World War by engaging in research relevant to contemporary international challenges.
- To promote more effective engagement between historians of Franco-British relations and those involved in diplomatic relations and foreign policy, developing knowledge exchange activities with diplomats and officials from the foreign policy community to better inform policy-making.
- To develop new understandings of the history of Franco-British relations at times of war in light of the 2010 Lancaster House Treaties on defence and security cooperation between the UK and France.
- To promote debate about Franco-British cooperation by exploring how the two states responded to the challenges of reconstruction at the end of the Second World War, including humanitarian relief efforts, refugees, displaced persons, the occupation of defeated countries and rebuilding democratic institutions.
- To connect historians working in the fields of transnational, international, diplomatic, intelligence and military history in order to develop more nuanced understandings and methodologies.
- To explore the wider implications for Scotland of the historical and contemporary challenges of Franco-British military cooperation.
- To develop the next stage in a wider project on Britain and France in War and Peace that includes a major international conference on ‘France and the Second World War in Global Perspective, 1919-45’ at the University of Strathclyde in July 2015 and a colloquium on ‘Britain and France in World War Two’ at the British Embassy in Paris in October 2015, hosted by the British Ambassador to France.
- How were Franco-British relations shaped by the experiences of the Second World War?
- In what ways might historians’ understanding of diplomatic relations be informed by engaging with serving and past diplomats, and how might officials from the foreign policy community benefit from working with historians?
- How did the experiences of the war shape the cultural dispositions and world views of French and British diplomats?
- In what ways did experiences such as the fall of France in 1940 shape British and French perceptions of each other’s capabilities as Cold War allies and fellow NATO member states in the postwar period?
- To what extent were Franco-British relations during the war shaped by their colonial interests?
- How did the experiences of war inform British and French responses to the challenges of postwar European reconstruction and the occupation of defeated countries after 1945?