joshcole_thumbnailWelcome to my home page.  I’m a Professor of History at the University of Michigan, where I’ve been teaching since 2004.  My research and teaching deal primarily with the social and cultural history of France in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and I’ve published work on gender and the history of the population sciences, colonial violence, and the politics of memory in France, Algeria, and Germany.

My most recent book, Lethal Provocation:  The Constantine Murders and the Politics of French Algeria (Ithaca:  Cornell University Press, 2019)  is a study of the worst episode of anti-Jewish violence on French territory in peacetime in the twentieth century, the August 1934 riots in Constantine, a city in French Algeria.  The murders in Constantine were a turning point in a long history that eventually led to the departure of Algeria’s Jews for France at the end of the war for Algerian independence in 1962.

My research demonstrates that the Constantine riots were connected to provocations by right-wing French militants with ties to the local political establishment.  Contemporaries suspected that this was the case, but nobody was able to prove it at the time, and the official report denied that any conspiracy existed. I have uncovered evidence that the provocateurs sought to inflame tensions between Muslims and Jews as part of a larger scheme to block reforms to the colonial regime and maximize the leverage of anti-Jewish political movements. Electoral reforms in the 1920s gave some Muslims the right to vote and run for office in local assemblies, and the agitators who provoked the violence in 1934 sought to taint the new cohort of Muslim officials with the stain of murder.  This book, in other words, is about the ways that debates about political reforms in French Algeria created opportunities for right-wing provocateurs to inflame local tensions in order to gain political advantage during the years that led up to the Second World War.  You can hear my interview with Roxanne Panchasi about this work on the New Books Network.

cole.powerMy earlier book, The Power of Large Numbers:  Population, Politics and Gender in Nineteenth-Century France (Ithaca:  Cornell University Press, 2000), examined the emergence of new scientific techniques for understanding population questions in nineteenth-century France and their connection to changing ideas about the French state and the place of women and families in the social order.

cap_cities_at_war_coverAfter I finished my dissertation, I was also involved in a collaborative study of three cities in Europe during the First World War.  My work for this group was published in Jay Winter and Jean-Louis Robert, Capital Cities at War:  London, Paris, Berlin, 1914-1919 (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1997).

Since 2009 I have been a co-author, with Carol Symes, of W. W. Norton’s Western Civilizations, a two-volume survey of European history now in its twentieth edition (it is also available in a brief edition).  This textbook can be paired with an accompanying two-volume document collection, Perspectives from the Past.  Norton’s website also contains a selection of author videos related to the themes of individual chapters in the textbook.

Click on the other links above  to learn about my current research and teaching, the work of graduate students working with me at the University of Michigan, and to download copies of some of my publications.

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