French Historians under the spotlight: Jean-Marc Dreyfus

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.

This month we hear from Dr Jean-Marc Dreyfus, Reader in Holocaust Studies at Manchester University. Among his numerous recent publications is Les rapports de Berlin. André François-Poncet et le national-socialisme, published by Fayard Histoire earlier this year.

Dr Jean-Marc Dreyfus: ‘My career as an historian is a gift that keeps on giving’

In the length of a tweet (140 characters), what is your research about?

Do you really want to know? The Holocaust and its aftermath. I focus at the moment on the search and identification of human remains.

What was your motivation for researching French history?

I am French, born and bred in Alsace. My family has a very old origin in this region. My culture is French but with a margin of uncertainty: my four grand-parents were born German in Alsace before 1918. That said, I struggle to expand my research beyond the ‘hexagone’. I would love to be a citizen of the world (of nowhere?) but I am and remain and will always be French!

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

Berlin, January 29th, 1933, the day before it all started. I would take a walk in the Tiergarten and would dine at Borchardt.

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

Marcel Proust, Robert de Montesquiou and Geneviève Strauss.

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

My career as an historian is a gift that keeps on giving. To make one’s passion his job. Rewarding: all my students, the numerous fascinating people I have met, Holocaust survivors, witnesses, so many great colleagues, now activists for Human rights from all over the world and also many artists.

Most frustrating: the growing admin in UK universities.

What one change would you like to see in Academia during the next 5 years?

Less of this organised, sterile competition: between colleagues, between departments, between universities.

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

I really don’t know.

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

Be patient and write what you think is important.

A few quick-fire questions…

Archives Nationales or Archives Départementales?

Archives Nationales and Archives Départementales. But for the latter one, in Strasbourg (Bas-Rhin) only.

Writing in silence or to music?


Best conference you’ve ever been to?

The first one I organised myself.


Please, don’t be rude.

Typed or handwritten?

Everything typed, my handwriting is awful.

Éclair or saucisson?

Éclair but a modernist one, like blackcurrant/chestnut.

Many thanks to Jean-Marc 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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