Dr Claire Eldridge

Lecturer in Modern European History

Summary: Lecturer in Modern European History

Biography

After graduating with an MA (Hons) in Modern History from the University of St Andrews, I went on to complete an M.Litt and an AHRC-funded PhD at the same institution. I then worked as a Lecturer in Modern History at Keele University and as a Lecturer in French Studies at the University of Southampton before coming to Leeds in September 2015.

I am an elected committee member of the Society for the Study of French History where I serve as the Membership Secretary.


Research Interests

I specialise in the social and cultural history of France and the French Empire. My research explores the interplay between empire, memory and migration, particularly in the context of the historical relationship between France and Algeria. I have focused extensively on the construction and transmission of memories within the pied-noir and harki communities following their mass migration to France when Algeria gained independence in 1962. Exploring memory activism within both groups as they sought to process their experiences of the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962) and to deal with the legacies of this conflict, my work seeks to historicise the current ‘memory wars’ phenomenon whereby different groups in France are seen to be ‘fighting’ for control of the public representation of this contentious past. This work forms the basis for my forthcoming monograph, From Empire to Exile: History and Memory within the Pied-Noir and Harki Communities, 1962-2012, which will be published by Manchester University Press. It also reflects my broader interest in how European societies negotiate competing claims on their national histories and memories in the public arena, particularly with respect to divisive and violent pasts. 

More recently, I have begun investigating the construction and representation of identities among the Christian, Jewish and Muslim inhabitants of colonial Algeria. I am particularly interested in the nature of interactions between these communities, and in their evolving relationship with metropolitan France.

Building on these interests, I am beginning a new project on the history of settlers from colonial Algeria who served in the French military during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This project will investigate the impact military service had upon the identities of these ‘settler soldiers’ and their relationships with the metropolitan and colonial troops they fought alongside.


Current Research Projects

I am currently working on several research projects.

Settler Soldiers

Settlers migrated to Algeria from a range of European countries over the course of the nineteenth century. Only in 1889 and 1893, more than half a century after the initial French conquest of Algeria, did naturalisation laws made these diverse Europeans into French citizens. This project will analyse the influence of the transnational origins and affiliations of the settlers on their sense of identity and belonging using as its case study military service. Considered a fundamental duty of citizenship and the ultimate expression of patriotism, military service was integral to national identity in France and to the republican social contract. The army therefore offers a useful lens through which to examine the interactions between local, national, imperial and transnational loyalties and belongings as they unfolded on the ground in Algeria and in France. In particular, military service allows us to see what the French state expected of its new citizens, what they in turn demanded from France, and how this compared to the duties and expectations placed upon other groups within Algeria.

Migrations of Decolonisation

As a series of empires came to an end between the 1940s and 1970s, millions of people abandoned or fled colonial ‘peripheries’ with most migrating to their respective colonial metropoles. Back in their ‘home’ societies, these men and women came to serve as central sites of negotiation regarding the meaning and legacy of colonialism, notions of belonging and exclusion, and the role of state and non-state actors in managing diversity in postcolonial nations. While there is limited work on a range of country-specific case studies, these have not yet been brought together in any sustained way. This is the impetus behind an evolving collaboration between scholars in the UK, Europe and North America. The first stage of this process involved a conference panel on ‘Migrations of Decolonisation’ at the Fourth European Congress on Global and World History held at the École normale supérieure (ENS) in Paris in September 2014. Drawing together case studies from the French, Dutch, Portuguese and Japanese empires, the panel demonstrated the potential within this theme, particularly the scope for bringing into dialogue empires usually considered separately. We are currently exploring ways to further build on this initial collaboration.


Publications

Claire Eldridge, ‘Returning to the “Return”: Pied-Noir Memories of 1962’, Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales, 29.3 (December 2013), 121-140.

Claire Eldridge, ‘Remembering the Other: Postcolonial Perspectives on Relationships between Jews and Muslims in French Algeria’, Modern Jewish Studies, 11.3 (November 2012), 1-19.

Claire Eldridge, ‘Blurring the Boundaries Between Perpetrators and Victims: Pied-Noir Memories and the Harki Community’, Memory Studies, 3:2 (April 2010), 123-136.

Claire Eldridge,‘“We’ve never had a voice”. Memory Construction and the Children of the Harkis, 1962-1991’, French History, 23.1 (March 2009), 88-107.


Book Chapters

Claire Eldridge, ‘The Pied-Noir Community and the Complexity of “Coming Home” to Algeria’, in Coming Home? Vol. 2: Conflict and Postcolonial Return Migration in the Context of France and North Africa, 1962-2009, ed. by Scott Soo and Sharif Gemie (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013), pp. 12-32.

Claire Eldridge, ‘“Le symbole de l’Afrique perdue”: Carnoux-en-Provence and the Pied-Noir Community’, in France’s Lost Empires: Fragmentation, Loss and la fracture coloniale ed. by Kate Marsh and Nicola Frith, (Lanham MD: Lexington, 2011), pp. 125-136.

Forthcoming publications

Claire Eldridge, From Empire to Exile: History and Memory within the Pied-Noir and Harki Communities (Manchester: Manchester University Press, forthcoming 2016)

Claire Eldridge and Rabah Aissaoui (eds.), Algeria Revisited: History, Culture and Identity, 1830 to the Present (London: Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming 2016)


Undergraduate Teaching

HIST2077: Colonial Encounters: France and Its Empire, 1830-1945 builds on my interest in how France interacted with the wider world. By exploring topics such as race, gender, religion, education and medicine, we will think about the ways in which France transformed the societies it came into contact with as it constructed its empire. At the same time, we will consider how the continual circulation of people, goods and ideas between colony and metropole influenced identities and ways of life in mainland France.

HIST2079: The Republic in Crisis examines key moments in French history since the founding of the Third Republic in 1870, including the Commune, the two World Wars, decolonisation, the student protests of May 1968 and the rise of the far right. Through these events we will think about the ways in which recurring themes such as religious tensions, political polarisation, war and questions over the place of minorities have shaped debates about French identity in the modern era.

HIST3665: France and Algeria from 1830 to the Present draws on my research into the complex and fascinating relationship between these two countries. Structured chronologically, the module explores the creation of a colonial society in Algeria that quickly came to be seen as an extension to mainland France before considering the factors that led to the violence dissolution of this union via one of the world’s most iconic and influential wars of decolonisation. We will also reflect on the enduring legacies of this history for both Algeria and France today.

I am also contributing to HIST1210: The Modern World


Postgraduate Teaching:

In 2015/16, I will be contributing to HIST5000 Research Methodology in History


EKT / Esteem Indicators /  Media Contact / Advisory roles:


I have been actively involved in a range of knowledge transfer and widening participation initiatives, including giving talks to sixth form students and local history societies, and at public film screenings.
I am available to the media for comment on issues relating to the relationship between France and Algeria in the colonial and postcolonial periods, the history of the French empire more broadly, as well as questions relating immigration, race and identity in contemporary France. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about these subjects.