Dr James Connolly

Dr James Connolly

Associate Professor


Faculty of Arts & Humanities

Joined UCL
1st Jan 2018

Research summary

My research focuses on military occupations in modern Europe, especially the experience and perspective of the French.  My wider research interests include warfare (notably the social and cultural history of war), occupier-occupied relations, local and national identity, the First World War, and modern French and European history more generally.

Much of my work to date has focused on the German occupation of northern France in the First World War, considering French behaviours under occupation, especially relations with the Germans. I am particularly interested in notions such as resistance, complicity, and criminality, as well as the memory and perception of this experience.  My approach comprises both cultural and social history, and also touches on notions of local and national identity.  I have published a number of articles on this topic, and my first monograph was published by Manchester University Press in May 2018.  It is entitled The Experience of Occupation in the Nord, 1914-1918: Living with the Enemy in First World War France and can be downloaded for free via Open Access.  This book received the 'Honorable Mention' (second-place) award for the 2019 inaugural Eugen Weber Book Award, given by the Department of History at UCLA for the best book on modern French history (post-1815) published internationally in English or French in 2017 or 2018.  It was also shortlisted for the 2018 Franco-British Society Book Prize.

Alongside Emmanuel Debruyne, Élise Julien, and Matthias Merlaien, I co-edited the book En territoire ennemi: Expériences d'occupation, transferts, héritages (1914-1949) (Lille: Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2018).

My current research examines the French experience of the Allied occupation of the Rhineland in the inter-war period, aiming to consider the perspective of both occupier and occupied, relations between the two, German behaviours under occupation, and the role of violence.  I hope to compare this occupation to that of northern France in 1914-18, and consider the links (experiential, political, administrative and other) between them.  I also wish to assess whether this allows for a framework of behaviours and modes of thinking under occupation (what I previously label 'occupied culture') to be proposed.

Beyond military occupations, I have written a chapter about British adoptions of French towns after the First World War, which touches upon humanitarianism, philanthropic history, the history of the British press, and Franco-British relations.  This was translated into German and published in Städtepartnerschaften in Europa im 20. Jahrhundert in May 2020.

My research has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, King's College London, the Historial de la Grande Guerre, and the Institute of Historical Research.

Teaching summary

I have previously taught at the University of Manchester, King's College London, and Royal Holloway, University of London.  Past modules include general survey courses on modern European history, plus modules on: the notion of a European 'civil war' from 1914-1947; the world wars; nationalism and nation-building; intellectual history; the notion of a French 'civil war' from 1934-1970; and twentieth-century French history.

At UCL in 2021-22, I am teaching on the following undergraduate modules:

  • FREN0005 (first-year): The Making of Modern France (module convenor)
  • FREN0074 (second-year): A Century of Conflict and Crisis: France, 1870-1970 (module convenor)
  • FREN0048 (final-year): Topics in Modern French History: France and the Great War (module convenor)

I am also Director (convenor) of MA Language, Culture, History, and teach the following MA modules:

  • ELCS0065: Language, Culture, History: Warfare (module convenor)
  • (MA bolt-on) FREN0077: Topics in Modern French History: France and the Great War (module convenor)

I previously taught the following modules, notably in 2020-21, and hope to return to them in the future:

  • ELCS0003 (first-year): Understanding European History: Facts, Interpretations, Stories (module convenor)
  • CMII0025 (MA): Global Europe (module convenor)

At Manchester, I supervised c.30 undergraduate dissertations on topics in modern French history, and would welcome the opportunity to supervise more.  At UCL, I have supervised work on modern European or French history or society, notably four MA dissertations (one for the History Department), two undergraduate dissertations, and six independent research projects on modern French or British history and society.


King's College London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2013
Royal Holloway
Other higher degree, Master of Arts | 2008
Royal Holloway
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) | 2007


I am a historian of modern Europe, especially France, with a particular focus on military conflict, occupation, and the First World War.  My interest in these subjects began when I studied for my BA (Hons.) History at Royal Holloway, University of London, where a third of my degree was with the French Department, including French-language classes.  I stayed on at Royal Holloway for my AHRC-funded MA Modern History, and I was especially influenced by the classes of Professor Pamela Pilbeam, who supervised my BA and MA dissertations.  I then moved to King's College London for my AHRC-funded PhD, carried out under the supervision of Professor Richard Vinen and awarded in February 2013.  My thesis was entitled 'Encountering Germans: the Experience of Occupation in the Nord, 1914-1918.'

I joined UCL in January 2018 as Lecturer in Modern French History, and have been Director (convenor) of MA Language, Culture and History since June 2019. In September 2021, I was promoted to Associate Professor.  I am honoured to have been nominated for multiple Student Choice Awards, notably for 'Excellent Personal Tutoring' in May 2020 and March 2021, and for 'Exceptional Feedback' in March 2021.

Prior to moving to UCL, I held a number of different roles: during my PhD, I was a Graduate Teaching Assistant at King's College London (2010-11), a Scouloudi Junior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research (2011-12), and a visiting staff member at Royal Holloway, University of London (2012).  After completing my PhD, I was a visiting staff member at Royal Holloway (2012-13), a Temporary Lecturer in Modern European History (part-time) at King's College London (2012-13), and chercheur postdoctoral et secrétaire scientifique (April 2013-August 2014) for the research axis 'L'Europe des guerres et des traces de guerres' at the Sorbonne (SIRICE, Paris I and IV Universities), part of the project LabEx 'Écrire une histoire nouvelle de l'Europe.'  I subsequently returned to the UK, working at the University of Manchester from September 2014 until December 2017, where I was a Lecturer in Modern European History (until August 2015) and then a Simon Postdoctoral Fellow.

From September 2018 to October 2022, I co-supervised PhD student Mathis Gronau, who studied the German diaspora communities in Britain and France during and after the First World War. I would welcome applications from further PhD students in the field of modern French or European history in general, especially the history of war and/or military occupation; feel free to contact me to discuss potential proposals.

I am a member of the conseil scientifique de l'Historial de la Grande Guerre, Fellow of the International Society for First World War Studies, a co-convenor of the Institute of Historical Research Modern French History Seminar, and an associate editor (video) for H-France. I am also a member of the comité scientifique of the Cahiers SIRICE, the Sorbonne's journal of contemporary European history.

I have co-organised multiple conferences and workshops on the military occupations of the First and Second World Wars, as well as a conference in association with the Institut Français du  Royaume-Uni  commemorating the First World War.  I was a member of the Organising Committee for the Society for the Study of French History Annual Conference 2020, which was postponed to 2021.

I lived in Lille for 15 months in 2009-10 and Paris for 14 months in 2013-14.