The Weight of the Past in Franco-British Relations

Partners and collaborators

University of Glasgow


Historical themes have long been prominent in the rhetoric and reality of Franco-British relations. Britain and France have been at peace for more than two centuries. Yet official and public discourse in both countries is saturated with backward-looking references to past national glory and 'natural' rivalry. The recent EU referendum in the UK is a case in point. Surprisingly, there is no systematic study of the role of representations of the past in Franco-British relations. To what extent have such representations shaped the conceptual horizons of policy-makers? What role have preoccupations with the present and the future played in the way the past has been used in policy debates? Has a preoccupation with history undermined co-operation between these two key European states?

This project aims to address these questions in the first detailed archival investigation of the 'weight of the past' in Franco-British relations. We will engage systematically with current and former policy practitioners and civil society (third sector) stakeholders to draw on their expertise and disseminate our research findings widely in government and public spheres.

The investigators will deploy an innovative research strategy based on new approaches in international history, historical culture and memory studies. The research will draw on richly varied archival and published sources in France and the UK. To maximise the breadth and depth of the research, we will work with leading international scholars who will attend project events and contribute their research to our final Project Conference. Proceedings will be published as a special issue of Diplomacy & Statecraft. The Investigators will co-author a research monograph ('The Weight of the Past in Franco-British Relations since 1815'), publish seven articles in leading peer-reviewed journals and give multiple conference papers. The result will be a substantial body of published work providing new perspectives on Franco-British relations and offering a new methodological template for studying the history of international relations.-