Current research projects
Professor Downs’s current research explores the shifting relationships between the social and the political in twentieth-century Europe via the comparative study of civil society mobilizations around social welfare in Italy, France and Great Britain from about 1870-1970. This research has given rise to a European research network “The Quest for Welfare and Democracy,” which developed out of a series of workshops that Downs organized at the EUI in 2014 and 2015 (see link to project website, above). The network brings together some 35 scholars from across Europe in a series of individual and collective projects that are inspired by a single, shared conviction: that the story of European welfare states is rooted in deeper and more local histories that are populated by activists and reformers whose names never appear in standard histories of the welfare state. By examining the manifold ways in which families, churches, trade unions, municipalities and other private or semi-public associations have interacted with each other and with the state in the identification of social problems and the creation of solutions, we propose to broaden our understanding of European social welfare both historically and socially, looking back before 1945 while plunging deeper into the fabric of civil society organizations, where so much of Europe’s social protection has taken place - and still does to this day.
Professor Downs’s current research has given rise to four separate book projects, all of which are unfolding in dialogue with the 'Quest for Welfare and Democracy' network:
- A ‘Perpetually Moving Frontier’? Social Protection, Civil Society and the State. Italy, France and Great Britain, 1870s-1970s
- Women’s Social Action and the Reconfiguration of Politics on the Right. Italy, France and Great Britain, 1918-1975
- Families in the Quest for Welfare and Democracy (co-edited with Sally Alexander and Paul Ginsborg)
- 'La più serena italianizzazione:’ How the women of Assistenza all’Italia Redenta shaped Italian state-building in the Italo-Yugoslav borderlands, 1919-1978