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French historians to gather at Illinois April 20-22 for annual meeting

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


French poster showing three soldiers in foreground looking to horizon at a tall building flying a tri-colored flag
Click photo to enlarge
Courtesy U. of I. Archives, University Library

This poster is one of 35 period French posters and 30 period documentary photographs that will be on display at the exhibition, "Pour la Victoire: French Posters and Photographs of the Great War," April 18 to July 30 at the Krannert Art Museum. The 1918 French lithograph was created by the artist Hansi. The poster beckons, "Subscribe to the Fourth Loan and the Tri-Color Flag will Announce in Strasbourg the Reign of Peace, of Liberty, of Justice to the World."

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The 52nd annual meeting of the Society for French Historical Studies will be held April 20 to 22 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

It is the first time Illinois is hosting the meeting, which this year is expected to attract 200 scholars of France, many of them from abroad. Several of the events are free and open to the public, including an art exhibition, lectures and film.

The SFHS is the largest professional organization of French historians in the English-speaking world and the largest non-French organization of its kind, said Mark Micale, professor of history at Illinois and co-organizer, with U. of I. historian Clare Crowston, of the conference. Micale and Crowston also are co-presidents of the society this year.

The society’s annual meeting “allows practitioners of the craft to share ideas and scholarship, and younger scholars the chance to debut their scholarly work.”

“It also fosters Franco-American congeniality and conviviality,” Micale said.

Nearly 150 papers will be presented on a wide range of topics, including immigrants and slums; new perspectives on France in World War II; war and gender; disasters and ruins in modern France; the occult; and France’s contribution to the Allied victory in 1918.

Invited keynote speakers are Hervé Drévillon, Université Paris I Sorbonne, a French military historian; Julian Jackson, University of London, a Vichy scholar; Ségolène Le Men, Musée D’Orsay, Paris, an art historian; and Pap Ndiaye, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, an expert on race relations in the United States and France.

lithographic poster showing a woman with arms raised holding a sword
Click photo to enlarge
Courtesy U. of I. Archives, University Library

The lithographic posters from World War I on display at Krannert Art Museum, "vividly depict the place of women in the war effort and the need for personal sacrifice on the home front," said curators David O'Brien and Emily Evans, both in art history. The artist for this 1917 French lithograph is Georges Scott. The poster reads: "For the Flag, For Victory."


The event, which requires registration and will be held primarily in the Illini Union, 1401 W. Green St., Urbana, also will feature activities that “showcase many of the university’s splendid resources,” Micale said, among them the Library’s collections of World War I posters and photographs produced by leading French artists.

The society “was attracted to us because of our outstanding group of French historians and by the world-class reputation of the university,” Crowston said.

“They also were confident we had the resources and the professional experience to organize a conference of this magnitude,” she said.

Illinois has seven historians of France: Crowston, early modern period; John Lynn, military history; Tamara Matheson, post-1945; Micale, science and medicine; David Prochaska, French colonialism in North Africa; Charles Stewart, French equatorial Africa; and Carol Symes, medieval period.

Conference highlights, all free and open to the public:

• Art exhibit, “Pour la Victoire: French Posters and Photographs of the Great War,” April 18 through July 30, Krannert Art Museum, 500 E. Peabody Drive, Champaign. David O’Brien and Emily Evans, both in art history at Illinois, are curators.

The “graphically charged, lushly colored” lithographic posters from World War I “vividly depict the place of women in the war effort and the need for personal sacrifice on the home front,” the curators wrote. The University Archives holds the posters; the Rare Book and Manuscript Library holds the photographs. Mary Stuart, the history librarian at Illinois, cataloged the never-before-exhibited items expressly for the show.

• April 20, inaugural exhibition lecture, Le Men, “Political Imagery and Graphic Art from Daumier to World War I,” 4 to 5:30 p.m., Krannert Art Museum.

• April 21, film, “Tire-au-Flanc” (“The Sad Sack,” 1928), 8 p.m., a silent black-and-white military barracks farce directed by Jean Renoir, atrium of the Siebel Center for Computer Science, 201 N. Goodwin Ave., Urbana.

• April 24, lecture, Ndiaye, “From 1967 to 2005: French and American Urban Riots in Comparative Perspective,” noon, 319 Gregory Hall, 810 S. Wright St., Urbana.

Meeting sponsors include the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Office of the Chancellor and several other organizations and universities. The conference Web site is For more information, contact