Historians under the Spotlight: Hanna Diamond

We’re pleased to announce the next instalment of Historians Under the Spotlight – an occasional interview series which offers a snapshot from academics’ lives: their passions, interests and reading suggestions. You can catch up with previous posts here.

Today’s entry is the first in a mini-series highlighting the plenary speakers of this year’s Society for the Study of French History conference on the theme of ‘Power, Protest and Resistance’. We’re starting with Professor Hanna Diamond (University of Cardiff) whose plenary talk on ‘Exhibiting Resistance: Thoughts from the Front Line’ will be hosted live at 7pm BST on Monday 28th June.

You can attend the Prof. Diamond’s talk, along with the many other fascinating sessions on offer, by registering for the conference. The deadline for registrations is 20th June.

In a nutshell, what is your research about?

Social and cultural history of the France during the Second World War with a particular interest in gender and testimony.

What was it that first got you interested in researching French history?

When writing my Year Abroad dissertation during my Erasmus year at the University of Toulouse – I went to the archives for the first time to research the history of the Jewish community there – I was smitten. There was nothing else I hoped to do other than look at more archives after that.

In the length of a Tweet, what is your plenary presentation about?

I will be using the plenary to report in my thinking and learning in relation to curatorial practice around exhibits on the resistance, drawing on my work with the Musée de la Libération de Paris and experience of the museum sector in France more widely.

What do you miss most and least about in-person academic conferences?

I most miss having a giggle and catching up with colleagues at in-person academic conferences, and least miss travelling to them and staying in sometimes very rudimentary accommodation.

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

Until recently, I always dreamed of mingling among the crowds in Paris during the Liberation, but since I have become fascinated with Josephine Baker’s wartime activities – I think I would now prefer to have the opportunity to be backstage in December 1940 in Marseilles when she performed her revival of La Créole.

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

I very nearly had a career in French academia and turned down a post at the Université de Caen as I decided to return to the UK when my mother died. I was also interested in going to the European Parliament for a while but obviously that career would have come to a very unhappy end by now.

What one change would you most like to see in Academia in the next five years?

I’d like to see a new funding model for the British Universities which would allow them more freedom to manoeuvre beyond the reach of government. I’d particularly like to see a move away from the market model of HE in ways that would allow for less precarity, more freedom of action for Universities and more scope for Universities to award scholarships and grants for students at all levels.

What was the best piece of academic advice you ever received?

Firstly, to always listen to the sources and follow what they tell us rather than approaching them with preconceived ideas and secondly, to never underestimate the importance of the contributions made by the scholars upon whose shoulders you stand.

Quick fire:

What French place/space would you most like to be able to go to right now?

I’d so like to be in the marais enjoying its cafés, restaurants and shops.

Favourite archive or library?

My favourite library is the most stunning one I’ve ever visited, inside the Mairie de Paris, and in terms of archives, my fondest archive memories are of working in the Section Contemporaine, rue Vieille du Temple. I never really felt the same way about the CARAN, or Pierrefitte. I always enjoy any opportunity to visit the wonderful National Archives in Kew.  

Typed or handwritten?

I prefer typed

Éclair or saucisson?



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