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Professor Bertrand Taithe

European Review of History/Revue européenne d'histoire

Bertrand Olivier Taithe
Professor in Cultural History
Secretary of the editorial committee of the European Review of History/Revue européenne d'histoire
Ext: 53102
Room: W2.16

Biographical Information

Born in France (Montpellier) I studied in Montpellier and later at the Sorbonne with professor François Crouzet before moving to Manchester to obtain my PhD. I held my Wellcome postdoctoral fellowship in Manchester at the Centre for the History of Science Technology and Medicine and then moved across the Pennines to lecture in the history department of the University of Huddersfield. After many happy years in Huddersfield, I am now delighted to be back in the University of Manchester.

Having begun as a British historian of urban sociology and Henry Mayhew in particular, I moved on to study the history of medicine and sexuality during and immediately after my doctoral thesis. From 1993 onwards my work has become concerned with the themes of medicine and war, My view was that the social and cultural history of medicine and war proved to be a field in need of revision.  My work has always used cultural history informed by anthropology, history of science, medicine and technology, philosophy and sociology. The questions that I wished to address were directly relevant to these disciplines and to an interdisciplinary approach to cultural history based on the 'linguistic turn' and the use of theory as appropriate. My first monograph, devoted to the history of Paris during the sieges, was consistent with my earlier work on urban representations and invited a reflection on the history of modernity and the city. 

Through my interdisciplinary work as a teacher on courses on cultural history, as well as on Michel Foucault (with Ken Hirchkop, Terry Eagleton, and Graham Ward), I became aware of the potential that interdisciplinary work represented. We embarked on a collective venture on the Arcades Project work of Walter Benjamin, it having become clear to us that only an exegesis addressing history, psycho-analysis, surrealism and modernism could make sense of what remains one of the great intellectual masterpieces of the twentieth century.  Our project represents the congruence of our research interests in a given moment in the history of ideas. 

Current Research

While my work on the Franco-Prussian war and Commune is now coming to an end, one of its salient features, namely the history of humanitarianism (a subject that I explored in preliminary fashion in articles and some chapters of my book) has now led me to develop my new project on the history of humanitarianism in the French colonial sphere.  I began this work some four years ago, and it is beginning to bear fruit in the form of programmatic articles exploring the early phases of French humanitarianism and the later phase (in the late twentieth century) of humanitarian medicine.  This is explicitly a return to the field of the cultural history of medicine and war.  This research directly relates to the newly established Research Centre in the Cultural History of War.  It is a broad theme covering the nexus of humanitarianism and war over a long period of at least 130 years.

My current research dwells on the history of humanitarianism in relation to military medicine, in particular colonial medicine and missionary medicine, in particular Catholic missionary work in the French empire broadly defined.  My particular areas of interest are: Algeria from 1860 until 1939; the Cameroon and in particular the work of Ad Lucem and Dr Aujoulat, the new forms of humanitarian medicine arising in the post-colonial context and for the later period Médecins Sans Frontières.


I am very interested in supervising students working on either the history of the body,  French cultural history or the history of 'social explorers' in France and Britain.  Please contact me if you have any research plans.

I am currently supervising a number of students in these areas:

Publication related to postgraduate work


Authored Books

The Essential Mayhew Book cover

The Essential Mayhew: Representing and Communicating the Poor, London , Rivers Oram, 1996; ISBN: 1-85489-046 8 

Deafeted Flesh Book Cover

Defeated Flesh: Welfare, Warfare and the Making of Modern France, Manchester University Press, 1999, ISBN:0-7190-5621-7 more on Defeated Flesh and table of contents

To order the book see Manchester University Press To read recent reviews see, European Review of History, March 2001; Archiv für Sozialgeschichte, Vol 40, November 2000; History Teaching Review, 22 March 2000; Day by Day December 1999; Social History of Medicine, August 2001, New York Review of Books, 13 March 2003.

Citizenship and Wars Book Cover

Citizenship and Wars: France in Turmoil 1870-1871, Routledge, 2001, ISBN: 0-415-23927-3 (hbk) and 0-415-23928-1(Pbk) To read recent reviews see Le Mouvement Social, March 2002, in H-France, 2002 and in Migration Studies 2004

Benjamin's Arcades : An unguided tour, Manchester University Press, 2005, co-authored with Peter Buse, Ken Hirschkop, Scott McCracken.

Co-edited books

Forthcoming: French Masculinities co-edited with Christopher Forth, Palgrave 2007.

prophecy book cover

Prophecy: the power of inspired language in history, 1300-2000, edited with Tim Thornton, Themes in History, Sutton Publishing, 1997, ISBN 07509-1331-2.
Table of Contents

War book cover

War: identities in conflict, edited with Tim Thornton, Themes in History, Sutton Publishing, 1998, ISBN: 0-7509-1684-2
Table of contents

Propaganda book cover

Propaganda: political rhetoric and systems of beliefs, edited with Tim Thornton, Sutton Publishing, 1999, ISBN: 0-7509-2028-9
Table of Contents


2006 'Algerian Orphans and Colonial Christianity in Algeria 1866-1939', French History, 2006 (September)

2006, 'Remembering Victory, commemorating defeat : The Centenary of Trafalgar, 1905' in Holger Hook ed., Commemorating Nelson, British Academy Occasional Papers.

2006-7, 'Religious Responses, humanitarianism and colonialism from the Algerian drought and famine to the French doctors' in Christof Mauch & Christian Pfister (eds), Natural Hazards: Responses and Strategies in Global Perspective' , German Historical Institute Series International Environmental History, first volume of the series, Rowman and Littlefield

2006 'Cold Calculations in the Faces of Horror' : Measuring the meanings of Compassion' in Fay Bound and Janet Brown eds, Medicine and Emotions, Palgrave.

2005 'Les politiques de la famine: Paris assiégé', Actes du colloque de Nogent-sur-Marne, Nogent sur Marne.

2005, 'L'immense hôpital : médecine militaire et civile, humanitaire et épidémiologie durant le siège de Paris (septembre 1870 -janvier 1871)' in P. Bourdelais & Olivier Faure (eds), La Diffusion des Pratiques de Santé, Belin, 2005.


2004, 'Reinventing (French) universalism: religion, humanitarianism and the 'French Doctors'', Modern and Contemporary France, 12 (2004) 2:147-58.

2004, 'Should the Third Republic Divide us Least?', French History, Vol 18,

2003 'Slow Revolutionary Deaths: Murder, Silence and Memory in the Early Third Republic', French History, Vol 17,  3:280-306.

2002, 'The unlit corners of an Arcadian dream: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project', Journal of Victorian Culture,  Vol 7, 2: 234-40.

2001, 'Morality is not a Curable Disease: Readings in the History of Venereal Medicine', Social History of Medicine, August 2001, vol 14, 2: 337-350.

1999 'Consuming Desires: Prostitutes and Customers at the Margins of Crime and Perversion in France and Britain, c.1836-1885', in M.Arnott & C. Osborne (eds), Gender and Crime, UCL University Press, London, pp.151-172.

1999, 'Monuments aux Morts? Reading Nora's Realms of Memory and Samuel's Theatres of Memory', History of the Human Sciences, vol 12, 2:123-139. 

1999, 'De la supériorité de l'Angleterre sur la France? Regards sur la France dans la crise de 1870 et naissance de l'humanitaire.' in K. de Queiros Mattoso (ed.), Mélanges en l'Honneur de François Crouzet, L'Harmattan, Paris, pp. 311-339, ISBN: 2-7384-8107-8

1999 'Rhetoric, Propaganda and Memory: Framing the Franco-Prussian War' in B.Taithe & T. Thornton (eds), Propaganda: Political Rhetoric and Identity, Sutton Publishing, Stroud, pp.203-23.

1999 (With Mark Jenner) 'The Historiographical Body' in John Pickstone & Roger Cooter (eds), History of Medicine in the Twentieth Century: Volume 2, The Body, Harwood Publishing, New York, 1999, pp. 187-200, ISBN: 90-5702-479-9.

1999 (With Tim Thornton) 'Propaganda: A Misnomer of Rhetoric and Persuasion?' in B. Taithe & T. Thornton (eds), Propaganda: Political Rhetoric and Identity 1300-2000, Sutton Publishing, Stroud, 1999, pp. 1-24.

1999 'Reliving the Revolution: War and Political Identity During The Franco-Prussian War' in B. Taithe & T. Thornton (eds), War: Identities in Conflict, Sutton Publishing, Stroud, 1998, pp.140-56. 

1998 'The Rise and Fall of European Syphilization: The Debates on Human Experimentations and Vaccination of Syphilis, c. 1845-1870', in F. Eder, L. Hall & G. Hekma (eds), Sexual Cultures in Europe, 1700-1995, volume 2, Manchester University Press, pp.34-57.

1998 'The Red Cross Flag in the Franco-Prussian War: Civilians, Humanitarianism and War in the 'Modern' Age', in R.Cooter,  S. Sturdy, & M. Harrison (eds), Medicine, War and Modernity, Sutton Publishing, Stroud, pp. 22-47, ISBN: 0-7509-1802-0

1998 (With Tim Thornton) 'Identifying War: Conflict and Self-Definition in Western Europe' in B. Taithe & T. Thornton (eds), War:  Identities in Conflict, Sutton Publishing, Stroud, pp.1-18

1997 'Fathers and Working Men: The Working Class Response to the Contagious Diseases Acts', in Keith Laybourn (ed.), Social Conditions, Status and Community, Sutton Publishing, 1997, pp.184-203, ISBN : 0-7509-1280-2

1997 (With Tim Thornton) 'The Language of History: Past and Future in Prophecy' in B. Taithe & T. Thornton (eds), Prophecy: The Power of Inspired Language in History, 1300-2000, Sutton Publishing, Stroud, pp.1-14.

1994 'La question du genre: L'approche du masculin', European Review of History-Revue Européenne d'Histoire, Vol. 1 (2), 229-39


Collaborative research

Review articles

'Morality is not a Curable Disease: probing into the history of VD, morality and prostitution', Social History of Medicine, August 2001, vol 14, 2: 337-350.

' Monuments aux Morts? Reading Nora's Realms of Memory and Samuel's Theatres of Memory', History of the Human Sciences,  Vol. 12 (1999) 2:123-139.


Social History of Medicine, The Times Higher Education Supplement, French History, European Review of History/Revue européenne d'histoire, History of the Human Sciences, Modern and Contemporary France etc.


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Conferences organised

Email pic

Email me: Bertrand.taithe@manchester.ac.uk