Bertrand Olivier Taithe

Senior Lecturer in Cultural History

Secretary of the editorial committee of the

European Review of History/Revue européenne d’histoire

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Biographical information

Current Research

Supervision Publications

Conferences organized
         Forthcoming conferences

European Review of History/Revue européenne d’histoire

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.

    Current research

My current research project started after my thesis and represented a move into French cultural history but I tried to maintain my interests on both sides of the Channel alive. The Franco-Prussian war and the commune have been central to this research project. My central aim was to consider the cultural impact and meanings of the war and civil war of 1870-1871. I was interested in the mnemonic importance of the war for all those who lived through the conflict and for French society and institution at large. I combined this with an interest in medicine, which served as a tool to explore the cultural meanings of war.

The overall ambition of this book is to read the 1870 conflict through the lenses of medicine, humanity and social debates in order to reverse the common assumption that it is war that shapes all. War as narrative is indeed a complicated text which includes many bloody pages and much rosy reconstruction. By looking at the diversity of opportunities and choices available in 1870 I would hope to demonstrate that if 1870 was indeed a watershed it was not the product of fate but that of choice, informed and ideological, and debate, explicit and implicit, which shaped modern France. The central theme of this first book was subjectivity and the rise of narratives of subjects at war.
More on Defeated Flesh

Citizenship and Wars, 1870-1871 in France and Algeria.

The follow up project came about from a number of issues I did not have the time or the space to develop properly in this first book. The central theme of the second volume is citizenship, not as a constitutional matter or theory but as a micro-practice found in the daily dealings of the National Guard for instance. In this sense it is less about Liberal values and more about the sort of work Michel de Certeau encouraged.
I therefore paid more attention to the provinces than to Paris, to Corrèze, Hérault, Rhone and a few more departments and particularly to the way in which a common civic idiom did not break down except in very few places. I am more interested in a sense in the way the Commune of Narbonne did not end up in bloodshed. My analysis of citizenship in praxis led me to consider ethnicity, gender and religion as central to individuals in a way ignored by French theories. To consider these three themes was made easier by looking at the Algerian situation. More on this project

My contention is that the war and commune shaped durably representations of citizenship in France, it gave increased importance to the locality, to forms of self-governmentality which contested centralization on the one hand but also called for the existence of a benign centre. This tension is in my opinion at the heart of the seemingly hesitant and patronage ridden Third Republic. In other words I would like to reclaim the local political culture of the Third republic.

A number of articles will follow from this project: one of the collective murder of Commandant Arnaud in December 1870, one on the cultural and political crisis of Algeria in 1870 and more theoretical one on the crisis of citizenship in the French national guard in 1870.
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  Victorian Bodies in Society to be published by Arnold: this project started with a taught post graduate module. This book building on twenty years of the history of the body will attempt to analyse the ideological role played by themes of corporeality in the writing of history. It builds on the work of Georges Canguilhem, Michel Foucault and Michel de Certeau. The body as canvas on which social problems or metaphors could be projected is immensely confusing and if one takes a Foucaultian perspective of the body as site of governmentality, zone of exchange and conflict one lacks the historical multidimensional sense of change and social agency. With Canghilem's perspective on normativity I believe one can avoid some of the pitfalls. I will admit that as yet I have not solved all the internal contradictions of this project which will attempt to be a critique of master narratives of the body as site of power struggles and be itself a narrative of the emergence of the body-subject in nineteenth century France and Britain.  The gist of what I will try to do is to give a critical historiographic approach to the material and follow a number of major trails: The medicalized body, the body mapped by medicine, the normal and the pathological, the hereditary and congenital body, the ageing body, the sexual and its regulatory framework (CDA), the body disciplined and the needs of the body.  In terms of geographical focus this book will be comparative for various reasons: 1. Because the production of knowledge is never insular for long and because only a comparative approach can really cast a light on regulatory frameworks centred on the body throughout the nineteenth century. The institutions designed to contain living human bodies or some of their activities can often be compared fruitfully.
Other projects involve a return to the work of Henry Mayhew and the activities of early sociologists in Britain and France.   Another project may see me return to the history of medicine with a particular interest in the role of French medicine in the Mediterranean world and of the Faculty of Montpellier in particular.

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    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:
1995- Janice Wilcock on medical notification in Huddersfield and Bolton
1996-2001 Robert Ellis on West Yorkshire Lunatic Asylums.
1997- 2001 Jenny Stewart on infant and maternal mortality in Huddersfield and Barnsley 1900-1939
1997- With professor Brian Maidment,  Frank Murray on representations of domesticity.
2001- Rebecca Gill on Humanitarianism in Britain 1870-1914
2001- Peter Wadsworth on the recording industry and studios 1950s-1990.

    Publication related to postgraduate work

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Authored books

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

-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.

-Citizenship and Wars: France in Turmoil 1870-1871, Routledge, 2001, ISBN: 0-415-23927-3 (hbk) and 0-415-23928-1(Pbk)

Authored books forthcoming

Flesh and Bones: The Making of the Modern Body 1789-1918, Arnold, 2002.

Co-edited books

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

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

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

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

- Reliving the Revolution: War and Political Identity During The Franco-Prussian War’ in B. Taithe & T. Thornton (eds), War: Identities in Conflict, Themes in History, Sutton Publishing, 1998, pp. 140-56. ISBN: 0-7509-1684-2

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

- ‘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, Themes in Sexuality, Manchester University Press, 1999, pp. 34-57.

- ‘The Red Cross Flag in the Franco-Prussian War: Civilians, Humanitarians and War in the ‘Modern’ Age’, in R.Cooter, S. Sturdy, & M. Harrison (eds), Medicine, War and Modernity, Sutton Publishing, 1998, pp. 22-47, ISBN: 0-7509-1801-2.

- ‘Rhetoric, Propaganda and Memory: Framing the Franco-Prussian War’ in B.Taithe & T. Thornton (eds), Propaganda: Political Rhetoric and Identity, Sutton Publishing, 1999, ISBN: 0-7509-2028-9

-    ‘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.), L’Angleterre et le Monde, XVIIIe-Xxe siècle, l’histoire entre l’économique et l’imaginaire, hommage à François Crouzet, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1999, pp. 311-339, ISBN: 2-7384-8107-8

Collaborative research

- 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, Themes in History, Sutton Publishing, 1997, pp. 1-14. ISBN 07509-1331-2.
- With Tim Thornton, ‘Identifying War: Conflict and Self Definition in Western Europe’ in B. Taithe & T. Thornton (eds), War: Identities in Conflict, Themes in History, Sutton Publishing, 1998, pp. 1-18. ISBN: 0-7509-1684-2
- With Tim Thornton, ‘Propaganda: A Misnomer of Rhetoric and Persuasion?’ in B. Taithe & T. Thornton (eds), Propaganda: Political Rhetoric and Identity 1300-2000, Themes in History, Sutton Publishing, 1999, pp. 1-24, ISBN: 0-7509-2028-9.
- With Mark Jenner, ‘The Historiographical Body’ in John Pickstone & Roger Cooter (eds), Medicine in the Twentieth Century, HarwoodPublishing, New York, 2000, pp. 187-200, ISBN: 90-5702-479-9.

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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Click on one of the following to obtain more information, check your WebCT accounts too:

Level 1: State Nation and Nationalism

Level 2: European Intellectual History from Rousseau to Freud (with Maiken Umbach and Stuart Jones)

Level 3: HI 3060 Democracy and Decadence: France 1850-1900.

MA: HI 6080 The Humanitarian Subject: Humanity, Medicine, and the History of the Body in the Nineteenth Century

MA: HI 4061    History and Postmodernism (With Harry Cocks, Natalie Zacek and Ian Burney)

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Conferences organized

- With Tim Thornton The Power of Prophecy, 1300-1990 a day conference University of Huddersfield, 16 March 1996,.
- With Benedikt Stuchtey Memory and History, an international day conference, German Historical Institute, 28 September, 1996.
- With Tim Thornton War and Identity, 1300-1990, day conference, University of Huddersfield, 12 April 1997.
- With Tim Thornton Propaganda: Political Rhetoric and Identity day conference, University of Huddersfield, 21 March 1998.
- With Tim Thornton Citizenship, day conference, University of Huddersfield, 15 May 1998.
- The Fifteenth Annual Conference of the Society for the Study of French History: Being French, MANCHESTER 2001 With Dr Alan James.
- Europe 1000-2000: One thousand years of Communitas, Universitas et Civitas, Budapest 2001.  Co-organized with Dr L. Kontler of the CEU university and the editorial Committee of the European Review of History/Revue européenne d'histoire.

Forthcoming conferences
Watch this space:

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This page was last updated on 18/09/2001.