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The University of Southampton
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Dr Joan Tumblety B.A. (Hons), PhD

Associate Professor in Modern European History; Head of Research

Dr Joan Tumblety's photo

Dr Joan Tumblety is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Southampton.

I am a historian of modern France, specialising in the entwined cultural, gender and political histories of the twentieth century. Although I began my career focusing on the cultural and gender politics of the far right, my current research draws on perspectives from the history of health and medicine to explore natural health cures and the emergence of self-help across the early to mid-twentieth century period.

I first explored the interrelation of gender and politics in my doctoral research on fascist writers during the Occupation of France, 1940-1944. I was struck by how systematically parts of the collaborationist press filtered and refined their political and historical views through notions of masculinity and femininity. I expanded this engagement with masculinity by exploring the imagined connection between national decline and male physical failure in a monograph about the world of French physical culture, 1918-1945. My doctoral studies also nurtured a scholarly interest in the instrumentalization of memory, and this resulted in the publication of an edited collection for Routledge in 2013.


Appointments held:

Cover image-Remaking the Male body
Cover image-Remaking the Male body
Cover image - Memory and History
Cover image - Memory and History

Research interests

My current research extends into the social and cultural history of health. One thing I learned about the physical culturist physicians I studied for my monograph was how entrepreneurial they were. Their professional livelihoods depended on an ability to persuade an audience of readers, subscribers and clients in the scientific credentials of the fresh air, sun, diet and exercise therapies they were selling. This sparked an interest in exploring how physicians developed strategies for shaping popular understanding of health more generally.

I am working towards a monograph on the history of natural health cures in early to mid-twentieth century France, focusing on the water cure offered at thermal spas. This was an era of considerable change in the management and promotion of these resorts, as well as for body culture more generally. In the new study I aim to knit together how medical doctors tried to popularise the body fix offered at these therapeutic establishments, with what I can learn about the social experience of individual men and women, boys and girls within them.

I am also working on several shorter projects in related areas. One is a study of the post-1945 career of the body builder Marcel Rouet, who tailored his self-help diet, sex and physical fitness therapies to an increasingly female audience of consumers. Another is a study of the popular encounter with science and medicine at the 1937 Paris world's fair, a piece that explores the interface between scientific knowledge and popular culture in the interwar period.

PhD supervision:

I welcome post-graduate students working on 20th-century French gender or cultural history, the radical right or the Occupation of 1940-1944.

I currently supervise the following doctoral students:

  • Abaigh McKee, co-supervised with Professor Shirli Gilbert, ‘Tutus and Jackboots: ballet music at the Paris Opera under the German Occupation of France, 1940-1944’ (ORT funded)
  • Emily Hooke, ‘The Gendered construction of knowledge about the French Resistance, 1940-1958’ (Wolfson Foundation funded)

I am also co-supervising several doctoral students funded by the AHRC South-West and Wales DTP:

  • Blanche Plaquevent, ‘Inventing the sexual revolution in France, 1945-1970’ (with Professor Josie McLellan, University of Bristol)
  • Geraint Evans, ‘Grassroots political engagement in infrastructure expansion during the early French Fifth Republic’ (with Professor Kevin Passmore, Cardiff University)
  • Dan Baker, ‘“Boys don’t cry”: a history of emotions approach to the Milice française’ (with Professor Kevin Passmore, Cardiff University)

MPhil/PhD research:

  • Catherine Robson, ‘Rieucros and Brens camps, 1938-1944: internment, women and everyday life’ (2019)
  • Fiona Ffoulkes, co-supervised with Professor Maria Hayward, ‘The metier of the fashion merchant (marchande de modes): luxury and the changing Parisian clothing system, 1795-1855’ (2017)
  • Patricia Legg, ‘The Impact of war and Occupation in psychiatric hospitals in France, 1939 to 1944’ (2017)

Research projects:

As part of my recent research on the cultural agency of physicians, I collaborated with Dr Catherine Kelly of the University of Bristol Law School on a project entitled ‘Physicians, persuasion and politics: lobbying and culture in Britain and France, 1780-1940’. The project resulted in an international workshop at the University of Southampton in July 2015; an article on histories of medical lobbying published in The Lancet, October 2016, co-authored with Professor Nick Sheron; and a co-edited special issue of a scholarly journal on doctors and persuasion, which appeared in History in 2019.

I am also working alongside Professor Martin Conway (University of Oxford) and Professor Mary Vincent (University of Sheffield) on a writing project about the shifting relationship between masculinity and politics in Western Europe, 1900-1960. My publications in this area include an essay on the ‘fascist new man’ in France in an edited volume on the general theme published by Bloomsbury in 2018.

Research project(s)

Natural health cures in France, c. 1918-1960

My current book project investigates natural health cures in France in the middle decades of the twentieth century. The early research has focused on the thermal spa experience.

Head of Research, UCU rep
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Book Chapters

My undergraduate teaching is informed by the scholarly interests that have driven my research projects. In addition to an introductory course on the French Revolution (Year 1), I teach modules on Sex, culture and power in France, 1789-1940, and Napoleon and his Legend (Year 2), as well as the special subject France under the Nazis, 1940-1944 (Year 3). I also co-teach a final-year Short history of the far right (Year 3), and an MA module on France and the world since 1789.

Dr Joan Tumblety
Building 65, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Southampton, Avenue Campus, Southampton SO17 1BF, United Kingdom

Room Number: 65/2067

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