Dr Ludivine Broch

Dr Ludivine Broch

Born in France, raised in Pittsburgh and Paris and having studied and settled in the UK, I am a historian interested in society and culture both within and beyond Europe around the time of the Second World War. I am interested in peoples' lives during this period, their thoughts, feelings and the objects which surrounded them. I am also interested in how this translates (or not) into memory and commemoration throughout the post-war decades and to this day. If I specialise in modern French history, I also enjoy teaching on and thinking about modern European history and memory more broadly and have discussed the history and memory of the Second World War in various media outlets, not least France24, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio London.

I was awarded a DPhil from the University of Oxford in 2010 for my doctoral thesis, funded by the AHRC, on the role of French railway workers during the German Occupation of France (1940-44). I then taught at Birkbeck and the University of Bristol, and was awarded an Early Career Research Fellowship at the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck and a Max Weber Fellowship at the European University Institute in Florence.

In September 2014, I joined the University of Westminster where I teach on a range of topics relating to 19th and 20th century European but also global history. I am actively engaged in the wider academic field as an Editor of Contemporary European History; an associate fellow of the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism; co-convenor for the Modern French History seminar at the IHR; co-founder of the French History Network

I am currently working on The Gratitude Train, exploring the history of 52,000 personal objects gifted from French people to Americans in 1949 in thanks for their aid during and after the Second World War. Why did people in war-torn France want to give away personal items to strangers they had never met? What did they give, what were they grateful for, and what did this gesture mean to them? Likewise, why was it that the reception of these gifts in every single American state was so extensively celebrated at the time, only to be forgotten in the decades to follow? The materialisation of gratitude into thousands of dolls, embroidered handkerchiefs and priceless vases asks new questions about how people felt about the world wars, and the ways in which people recovered from their experiences and rebuilt their lives. The study of these objects takes us away from the usual post-war images of smoke-filled rooms and male politicians, and brings us to a post-war everyday reality centred around womens' crafts, childrens' toys, artisanship and aesthetics. Funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme, this project will result in a number of academic publications but also public events in America, Britain and France.

My first book, Ordinary Workers, Vichy and the Holocaust, was published by Cambridge University Press iin June 2016, and was translated in French with Tallandier in September 2016. It studied the lives of French railway workers during the war, and crucially de-sanctified the myth of French railway men as heroic resisters and saboteurs which had been erected by films such as La Bataille du Rail (1945). Instead, it revealed the daily life of these workers who accommodated with the Vichy regime, cohabitated with the Germans and stole from their employer. I also challenged the demonisation of railwaymen in the 2000s for their role in the Holocaust, offering a more nuanced account of everyday decisions people made in wartime. 

I have written chapters and articles related to this research on resistance, French railwaymen and the Holocaust, explaining how resisters could also be regarded as terrorists, how decisions to help and/or rescue Jews were not so straightforward at the time and how the memory of French railway men during the war reflected the broader legal and political debates about Holocaust memory in the 1990s and 2000s. 

My interest in the history of the French resistance led me to reflect on the very noticeable silence in regard to the colonial, non-white resisters who joined resistance networks and groups in Occupied France. These hundreds of men and women have been almost completely written out of history - and yet their stories are hugely important and deeply revealing. In a recent article, I examined the roles that many colonial subjects took on in the French internal resistance, but also the hesitancy of other colonial workers in Vichy France to fight for a Republic which, ultimately, never really acknowledged them. 

I specialise in Vichy France; the history and memory of the world wars; modern France; the Holocaust and genocide; the history of material culture. I am happy to supervise students in any of these areas.

  • History Research Group