Talks

Refugees and the History of the 20th Century
by Professor Peter Gatrell

Date: Tuesday 7 December 2021

This lecture proposes a history that examines the circumstances, actions and trajectories of refugees in different times and places

Refugees and the History of the 20th Century

The plight of refugees has again become a dominant focus of public debate as it was in the aftermath of both world wars. It seems to speak to the desperation of displaced people and the intransigent stance adopted by many governments. This lecture proposes a history that examines the circumstances, actions and trajectories of refugees in different times and places, in and beyond Europe, and what it means for refugees to encounter government officials and aid agencies, as well as people who were not displaced. In thinking about refugees as agents rather than as flotsam and jetsam, the lecture also reflects on the ways in which refugees have voiced their own concerns and aspirations. Ultimately it invites the audience to think about the category of ‘refugee’ and the contours of ‘refugee history’.

"Reckoning with Refugeedom: refugee voices in modern world history", website https://reckoningwithrefugeedom.wordpress.com/

Peter Gatrell has just retired from the University of Manchester after having taught there for 45 years following undergraduate and postgraduate study at the University of Cambridge. In addition to three books on Russian economic and social history, his publications include a trilogy on refugee history: A Whole Empire Walking: Refugees in Russia during World War 1 (Indiana University Press, 1999); Free World? The Campaign to Save the World's Refugees, 1956-1963 (Cambridge University Press, 2011); and The Making of the Modern Refugee (Oxford University Press, 2013). His latest book, The Unsettling of Europe: the Great Migration, 1945 to the Present, a new history of Europe seen through the lens of migration, appeared with Penguin Books and Basic Books in August 2019 (paperback, 2021). In 2021 it was awarded the Laura Shannon Prize for “the best book in European studies that transcends a focus on any one country, state, or people to stimulate new ways of thinking about contemporary Europe as a whole”.

Peter is a Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

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