French Historians under the spotlight: Prof. Richard J. Golsan

Welcome to ‘under the spotlight’, a monthly interview series which offers a snapshot from academics’ lives: their passions, interests and reading suggestions – all summarised in less than ten minutes. You can catch up with previous posts here.

Continuing with our current spotlight on speakers at the forthcoming SSFH conference in July, this month’s subject is Richard J. Golsan, Distinguished Professor of French and Director of the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M University. His keynote is taking place on 4th July; more details about the conference can be found here.

Richard J. Golsan: “I’ve really enjoyed meeting colleagues, learning from them, and in many cases becoming friends with them”

In one sentence, what is your research about?

My work focuses on the cultural, political, and legal legacies of Vichy and WWII, more broadly.

What was your motivation for researching French history?

I lived in France as a child and France’s sense of its past fascinated me. I’m also interested in the impact of political and historical traumas on human psychology.

You’re given a time machine for one day. Where would you go? What would you do?

That’s a tough one! The court of Francois 1er? Atlanta, Georgia during the Civil War. Or the Jurassic Period to see my favorite dinosaurs…

Who would you invite to your French History fantasy dinner party?

Robert Paxton, Henry Rousso, François Furet, Pierre Mendès-France, Léon Blum, and… René Bousquet.

What have you found most rewarding and most frustrating about your career?

Again, a tough one. I’ve really enjoyed meeting colleagues, learning from them, and in many cases becoming friends with them. The most frustrating:  the older I get, the better I understand my own ignorance, and wish I had more time to read.

What is on your desk at the moment?

My desk is completely cluttered, but here are a few:

Louise Arbor, War Crimes and the Culture of Peace; Henry Rousso, Face au passé

Kathryn Sinking, The Justice Cascade; Pascal Bruckner, la Sagesse de l’argent.

If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing?

Really no idea on this one. I suppose I would want to be a novelist, or full-time writer.

What key piece of advice would you offer postgraduates/early career academics?

Stay passionate about your work, don’t get discouraged.

A few quick-fire questions…

Archives Nationales or  Archives Départementales?

The old IHTP.

Monograph or journal article?


Best conference you’ve ever been to?

A very stormy conference on Drieu la Rochelle in the mid-1990s.

Writing in silence or to music?

Silence is golden.

Pick a century?

20th Century, of course.

Éclair or saucisson?



Many thanks to Richard for taking part. If you’d like to suggest someone to feature on the blog, then let us know via @FrHistNwk.


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