Dr James Connolly

Dr James Connolly

Lecturer in Modern French History


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 (especially the social and cultural history of war), occupier-occupied relations, local and national identity, the First World War, and modern French and European history.

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.  My first monograph was published by Manchester University Press in May 2018, and is entitled The Experience of Occupation in the Nord, 1914-1918: Living with the Enemy in First World War France. It can also be downloaded for free via Open Access.

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 is being translated into German and will be published in 2019.

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 2019-20 I am teaching on the following undergraduate courses:

FREN0005 (first-year): The Making of Modern France (module convenor)

ELCS0003 (first-year): Understanding European History: Facts, Interpretations, Stories

FREN0075 (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 Convenor of the MA Language, Culture, History, and am teaching the following MA courses:

ELCS0065: Language, Culture, History: Warfare (module convenor)

CMII0025: Global Europe (module convenor)

FREN0077: Topics in Modern French History: France and the Great War, MA bolt-on (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 two MA dissertations on modern European history and society more generally.


King's College London
PhD, History | 2013
Royal Holloway
MA, Modern History | 2008
Royal Holloway
BA Hons, History | 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.  I previously 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.

I am a Fellow of the International Society for First World War Studies, an associate editor of H-France, and an associate researcher of LabEx EHNE.

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 am a member of the Organising Team for the Society for the Study of French History Annual Conference 2020.

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