The first testimonial comes from Dr. Luc-André Brunet discussing the Max Weber Fellowship at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, which he held in 2015-16. He is currently a Lecturer in Twentieth-Century Europe at the Open University.
What did you do your PhD on?
My PhD looked at the organisation of heavy industry, especially steel, in France between the Fall of France in 1940 and the establishment of the Monnet Plan in 1946. With the formation of the Vichy regime, France moved away from the liberal economic model of the Third Republic and reorganised its industry along the lines of the Third Reich. I look at the new institutions created by Vichy, notably the Organisation Committees, and trace these until their dissolution in 1946. By looking at the early post-war period, I was able to demonstrate a striking degree of continuity from Vichy to the post-war era, and I conclude that the offices created by Vichy in 1940 served as the institutional foundations of the Commissariat Général du Plan, the office responsible for drawing up and implementing the Monnet Plan.
When, and why, did you apply for a Max Weber Fellowship?
I had my viva in September 2014, and in October of that year I started a one-year post-doc at LSE. The submission deadline for the Max Weber Fellowship was in late October, so it was the first application I submitted after finishing the PhD.
After finishing my thesis, I knew that I wanted to extend the narrative of my study to include the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (the first supranational institution in Europe and the forerunner to the European Union), which meant adding at least one more chapter. Given that the new material would deal extensively with the history of European integration, EUI was the logical choice. Not only is it one of the leading centres for the study of European integration history, but it houses the Historical Archives of the European Union, which were incredibly helpful for my research.
The Max Weber Fellowship appealled to me very much. I knew a number of people who had held the fellowship in the past, and they all recommended it very highly. The interdisciplinary nature of the programme also interested me; both my undergraduate and my Master’s degrees were interdisciplinary, and a field like EU studies really benefits from dialogue with the other social sciences.
What tips would you give to anyone interested in applying for the Max Weber Fellowship?
As with other post-docs, I think the key is to express what makes your research project interesting and how it makes an important contribution to the field. This is always tricky, but I think channelling your enthusiasm for your project into a research statement can really help. Of course, having an interesting idea for a project is only half of what they’re looking for – you need to convince them that you’re the best person to carry this project out! Highlighting relevant experience, skills, and publications that show your abilities are also important.
It’s also worth remembering that the Max Weber Fellowship generally lasts only one year for historians. That means it’s important to show that you have a realistic project that you can complete in the year at EUI. Technically the only written research output a fellow needs to produce during the year is a working paper – i.e. a draft chapter or article. Explaining what this would be, and how it fits into your broader research agenda for the year, is important. In my case I spent the year at EUI revising my thesis for publication and writing an additional chapter, which I submitted as my working paper. Whether you’re looking to finish up a project or to start a new one, I’d recommend being clear about what concrete research outputs you would be able to produce during your fellowship.
How are you finding the fellowship?
Unfortunately my fellowship is already over! I started a lectureship at the Open University this spring, which meant I had to cut my time at EUI a bit short. But the fellowship was amazing. There are relatively few commitments in terms of teaching or administration, so having nearly a year to focus on reasearch was a privilege – I was able to write two articles and a new chapter for my book, develop my thesis into a book manuscript, and do a handful of archival trips. EUI also organises dozens of workshops for fellows on various job market skills, which were incredibly helpful – I’m sure they helped me secure my current lectureship. Perhaps most importantly, they do an incredible job of fostering a genuine community at EUI. And I haven’t even mentioned the setting – a villa in the Tuscan hills overlooking Florence…
Would you do anything differently?
Not really – I was fortunate enough to have had a very productive and enjoyable time at EUI, and it led me to my current position here in the UK. The only thing I would have done differently would be to have let a flat with air conditioning – when I arrived in Florence it was 40 degrees, which was pretty shocking for a Canadian!
Luc-André Brunet is Lecturer in Twentieth-Century Europe at the Open University. He was previously a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute (2015-16) and Pinto Post-doctoral Fellow in Contemporary International History at LSE (2014-15), where he earned his PhD in International History in 2014. He is also Deputy Head of the LSE IDEAS Cold War Studies Project and Book Review Editor for the journal Cold War History. His forthcoming monograph, Forging Europe: Industrial Organisation in France from Vichy to the ECSC, 1940-1952, will be published by Palgrave Macmillan.