Peter Gatrell, Professor, University of Manchester

Writing Refugees into Modern World History

The plight of refugees has again become a dominant focus of public debate as it was in the aftermath of the two world wars. It seems to speak to the desperation of displaced people and the intransigent stance adopted by many governments. In reflecting on the stance and role of historians, my talk proposes a history of population displacement that is attentive to the circumstances, actions and trajectories of refugees in different times and places, and what it means for refugees to encounter government officials and aid agencies, and to interact with one another as well as with people who had not been displaced. In thinking about refugees as agents rather than as flotsam and jetsam, I consider how refugees have expressed themselves, including as historians of their own predicament. My talk draws upon my own research and upon the growing historiography on key sites and moments of displacement in the 20th century. Ultimately it invites the audience to think about the category of ‘refugee’ and the contours of ‘refugee history’.

Peter Gatrell teaches history at the University of Manchester where he is also affiliated to the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute. He is the author of a trilogy of books on refugee history, including A Whole Empire Walking: Refugees in Russia during World War 1 (1999) and The Making of the Modern Refugee (2013). His latest book, co-edited with Lyubov Zhvanko, is Europe on the Move: Refugees in the Era of the Great War, 1912-1923 (2017). He is currently writing a history of migration in/to Europe since 1945, for Penguin Books and Basic Books.

Program för Forum för forskning om transnationell migration och CEIFO-seminarier vårterminen 2018.