Laura Lee Downs

Director of the ERC Project SOCIOBORD 


Co-coordinator of the interdisciplinary research cluster:
Inequality, Welfare and Social Justice


Prof. Downs will not take on any new supervisees in the academic year 2021-2022

Fields of research

  • Modern Europe, with an emphasis on France, Italy and Great Britain
  • Comparative labor history
  • History and social theory
  • Histories of gender and sexuality
  • Comparative history of childhood
  • Comparative history of social protection 

Current research projects

European Research CouncilSocial Politics in European Bordelands. A Comparative and Transnational Study, 1870s-1990s (SOCIOBORD) - ERC Advanced Research Grant, under the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme

Professor Downs’s current research seeks to reframe the history of welfare and social care in modern Europe by restoring to view the contribution of local actors - primarily families and associations - to shaping welfare systems in three borderland regions of northwestern, eastern, and southeastern Europe. By adopting what she calls a "triadic" approach, which understands families, associations and states as co-constructors of social welfare, and focusing on borderland regions, where the reach of central states often fluctuated, Professor Downs and her team are examining a wide range of local welfare structures, based on national, but also non-national forms of identity and solidarity, such as occupation, religion, gender, neighborhood, etc. By focusing on these overlapping, and at times competing structures of social provision, Professor Downs and her team will explore the interplays between inclusion and exclusion that have long shaped European welfare provision. “Rather than treating borderlands as peripheries, we approach them as laboratories for the development of social protection, thanks to the dense variety of actors competing for influence over their putative objects of assistance and for access to material resources,” said Professor Downs, “for we are convinced that the long-range historical study (1870s - 1990s) of local actors' ideas and practices around social welfare in European borderlands has much to tell us about the development of welfare across Europe in general”.

Selected recent publications

  • « Il était une fois…La démobilisation féminine, 1918-1919 », L’Humanité-Dimanche, 24-30, 76-81 (janvier 2019)
  • « 'La piu’ serena italianizzazione?' Social action and nationalist politics in the North-eastern Adriatic borderlands (1919-1954) », Acta Histriae 26/4 (December 2018), 1087-1102 (December 2018)
  • « Quand les enfants des classes populaires devenaient ceux qui restent dans la ville pendant les grandes vacances d’été », Fondation Jean Jaurès, Penser pour agir (6 July 2018) 
  • « Can we Construct a Holistic Approach to Women’s Labor History over the longue durée », in Raffaella Sarti, Anna Bellavitis and Manuela Martini, eds., What is Work? Gendered Perspectives between Home, Family and Business (Berghahn, 2018), 349-67
  • « Gender History: A space of debate » and “Response to Miri Rubin’s Reply” in Peter Burke et Marek Tamm, eds. Debating New Approaches in History (Bloomsbury, 2018), 101-25
  • « Au revoir les enfants: Wartime evacuation and the politics of childhood in France and Britain, 1939-1945 », History Workshop Journal 81/2 (fall 2016), 1-39
  • « 'And so we transform a people’: Women’s Social Action and the Reconfiguration of Politics on the French Right, 1934-1947 », Past and Present 225 (November 2014), 2-39.
  • « Enfance en guerre : Les évacuations d’enfants en France et en Grande Bretagne1939-1940 », Annales, H.S.C. 66-2, (avril-juin 2011), 413-48.
  • Writing Gender History, London, Arnold Press, 2004; 2e edition, revised and expanded, Bloomsbury Press, (2010)
  • Histoire des colonies de vacances de 1880 à nos jours, Paris, Editions Perrin, (2009)


English, French, Italian


  • Tel. [+39] 055 4686 571 / 427
  • Email   [email protected]
  • Postal address:
    Department of History and Civilization 
    Via Bolognese 156 
    50139 Florence - Italy

Office SAMN226 at Villa Salviati, Manica

For appointments please contact the Administrative Assistant: Laura Borgese

Page last updated on 14 January 2021

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