Personal profile

Biography

I studied for two years in a preparatory class in Strasbourg – The Hypokhâgne and Khâgne – which prepares candidates for the entry exams to the French ‘Grandes Ecoles’ – and then moved to the University of Nancy (France). After my MA, I have had the valuable opportunity to work as full-time research assistant at the University of the South Wales on a Leverhulme funded project entitled ‘Outcast Europe’ and supervised by Sharif Gemie. This research, on the experiences of refugees in the era of the Second World War, laid the groundwork for my decision to specialise in histories of humanitarianism, displacement and international organisations. This led to the publication of Outcast Europe: Refugees and Relief Workers in an Era of Total War (Continuum, 2011).

After the completion of this project, I went to the University of Exeter to pursue my AHRC-funded PhD carried out under the supervision of  Martin Thomas and Richard Overy and awarded in February 2014. Since completing my PhD, I taught at the University of Exeter. I was delighted to join the University of Manchester as a Lecturer in Modern History in September 2015. 

My research has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Royal Historical Society and the Society for the Study of French History. In 2014, I won the British International History Group thesis prize. My monograph Reinventing French Aid: The Politics of Humanitarian Relief in French-Occupied Germany, 1945-1952 was published by Cambridge University Press (2021).

In 2020, I was awarded a two year AHRC early career research grant for a project entitled 'Colonial and Transnational Intimacies: Medical Humanitarianism in the French external Resistance'. Bertrand Taithe (HCRI, University of Manchester) and Marie-Luce Desgrandchamps (University of Geneva) are Co-Investigators on this project. As part of this project, we organised a seminar series entitled 'New approaches to Medical Care, Humanitarianism and Violence during the 'long' Second World War, c. 1931-1953'. Summaries of each session are available on the project's website: https://colonialandtransnationalintimacies.com/

In 2021, I was invited to join the Researching the Impact of Attacks on Healthcare (RIAH) consortium led by Larrisa Fast. As part of this project, I am working with Bertrand Taithe on History-Writing and Attacks on Healthcare. Earlier findings are available on the project's website: https://riah.manchester.ac.uk/

 

Opportunities

Please email me at Laure.Humbert@manchester.ac.uk if you would like to discuss postgraduate study and research supervision. I would be delighted to hear from prospective Masters or Doctoral students with research interests broadly in the field of Modern European History, and especially from those whose dissertation topics might potentially intersect with histories of medical care, humanitarianism, population displacement and international organisations.

I have co-supervised Margot Tudor's ESRC-funded thesis 'Blue Helmet Bureaucrats: UN Peacekeeping Missions and the Formation of the Post-Colonial International Order, 1956-1971' with Dr Eleanor Davey and Dr Roisin Read.

Research interests

I am a historian of modern Europe, and am particularly interested in the history of humanitarianism.  Reinventing French Aid (CUP, 2021) explores how humanitarian aid in occupied Germany was influenced by French politics of national recovery and Cold War rivalries. The book examines the everyday encounters between French officials, members of new international organizations, relief workers, defeated Germans and Displaced Persons, who remained in the territory of the French zone prior to their repatriation or emigration. By rendering relief workers and Displaced Persons visible, it sheds lights on their role in shaping relief practices and addresses the neglected issue of the gendering of rehabilitation. In doing so, Reinventing French Aid highlights different cultures of rehabilitation, in part rooted in pre-war ideas about 'overcoming' poverty and war-induced injuries. Crucially, the book unearths the active and bottom-up nature of the restoration of France's prestige. Not only were relief workers concerned about the image of France circulating in DP camps, but they also drew DP artists into the orbit of French cultural diplomacy in Germany.

This research has opened a number of key questions pertaining to the use of aid by French resistance elites prior to 1945, which provided the impetus for the AHRC-funded project 'Colonial and Transnational Intimacies: Medical Humanitarianism in the French external Resistance'. This project aims to rethink the history of the French Resistance from the perspective of its missionary dispensaries, mobile and base hospital units in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, but also at sea. This project interrogates how intimate hospital encounters transformed individual and collective group identities, shaped international diplomatic and military cooperation and, in some cases, fuelled anti-colonial dynamics. 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

External positions

Committee Member, Fondation de la France Libre

2022 → …

Committee Member, Society for the Study of French History

2017 → …

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