Laura Lee Downs


Laura Lee Downs is a Professor in the Department of History and Civilization at the European University Institute, where she holds the chair in Gender History. Laura is also Directrice d’études at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, where she holds the chair ‘La Gestion sociale : France-Angleterre, XXe siècle.’

Her research interests include the comparative history of gender and labor in nineteenth and twentieth-century Europe, the history of childhood and the family, and of civil society mobilizations around the protection of vulnerable populations.

She is author of:

  • Manufacturing Inequality: Gender division in the French and British metalworking industries, 1914-1939 (Ithaca & London, 1995), which won the Pinckney Prize for the best book in French History written by a North American
  • Childhood in the Promised Land: Working-class movements and the colonies de vacances in France, 1880-1960 (Durham & London, 2002)
  • Writing Gender History (2nd edition, revised and expanded, London, 2010)
  • Histoire des colonies de vacances de 1880 à nos jours (Paris, 2009)
  • and, with Stéphane Gerson, Why France? American Historians Reflect on their Enduring Fascination (Ithaca & London, 2006)

Her most recent publications include two articles on the contested politics of social work in interwar and wartime France:

  • ‘And so we transform a people’: Women’s Social Action and the Reconfiguration of Politics on the French Right, 1934-1947 », Past and Present, November 2014, 1-39;
  • “Nous plantions les trois couleurs’: Action sociale féminine et recomposition des politiques de la droite française. Le mouvement Croix-de-feu et le Parti social français, 1934-1947′, Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine 58-3, juillet-septembre 2011, 118-63

and two comparative studies of theories and practices around childrearing in France and Great-Britain at mid-twentieth-century as revealed through the lens of wartime civilian evacuations:

  • ’Au revoir les enfants’: Wartime evacuation and the politics of childhood in France and Britain, 1939-1945′, History Workshop Journal, October 2016
  • ‘Enfance en guerre : Les évacuations d’enfants en France et en Grande Bretagne, 1939-1940’, Annales, H.S.C. 66-2, avril-juin 2011, 413-48

She is currently preparing a book on encounters between civil society associations and the state around the social protection of vulnerable populations in Italy, France and Great Britain, 1870-1970.

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