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Listen to the podcast of the 4 March seminar, part of the Hilary term 2015 Public Seminar Series

In this talk, Professor Gatrell throws down the gauntlet by challenging historians of the modern world to take refugees seriously. Why, when other ‘marginalised’ groups – women, the working class and slave populations for example – have become incorporated into the mainstream of historiography, have refugees been left in the cold? Perhaps it is because refugees are thought to be unorganised, inactive and inarticulate. Perhaps the neglect originates in the belief that refugees are transient players on the world stage, in the sense that ‘being refugee’ is assumed to be a dramatic but brief hiatus. These assumptions are problematic and questionable. But what might ‘refugee history’ look like? In picking up the gauntlet, Professor Gatrell's answer is necessarily wide-ranging, taking account of histories of categorisation, political upheaval, humanitarianism and the often problematic relationship of refugees to their own past. 


Professor Gatrell has spent most of his academic career at the University of Manchester, with short spells teaching part-time at the University of Liverpool and at the London School of Economics. His first teaching post was at the University of East Anglia (1976). His undergraduate and PhD degrees are from the University of Cambridge. Between 1997 and 2002 he was Head of the School of History and Classics, which now forms part of the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures. He is one of the founding members of the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester. 

The British Academy awarded him a Research Readership in 1995-1997, enabling him to research and to write A Whole Empire Walking: Refugees in Russia during World War 1 (Indiana University Press, 1999), as well as several related articles and conference papers. This book won the Wayne S. Vucinich Prize, 2000, awarded by the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies for 'outstanding work in Russian, East European or Eurasian studies in any branch of the humanities or social sciences', and the Alec Nove Prize, 2001, awarded by British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies, for an 'outstanding monograph in Russian and East European Studies'.

He has since extended his interest in the history of population displacement in a number of directions. These include collaborative research projects on population displacement, state-building and social identity in the aftermath of the First World War and the Second World War. He also became interested in the UN and global campaigns on behalf of refugees, and in 2011, Free World? The campaign to save the world's refugees, 1956-1963 was published by Cambridge University Press. 

His latest book is entitled The Making of the Modern Refugee (Oxford University Press, 2013). 


Peter Gatrell External

The history of refuge News & Media