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Professor Helen Graham

Professor Helen Graham

Professor Helen Graham - Professor of Modern European History

I’m a historian of modern Europe who teaches from the French Revolution to the 20c. My own published work focuses on what we call the European civil wars of 1917-47, when societies and political systems across the continent, in central, south and east Europe, underwent significant internal conflict and social levelling. I also teach and write about what is, still today, the highly fraught memory of this process.

On war and social change in twentieth-century Europe, I co-authored (with Alex Quiroga), ‘After the fear was over? What came after dictatorships in Spain, Greece and Portugal’, in Dan Stone (ed.) Oxford Handbook of Postwar European History (Oxford University Press, 2012)

Also related to the theme of Europe’s civil wars, I have published extensively on the transnational and continental ramifications of the war of 1936-39 in Spain, and also on the continuation of that ‘war’ inside Spain in the form of the mass repression perpetrated in the 1940s by the Franco dictatorship. Francoism rapidly became bound up in complicated ways with the history of the Cold War West, from which historians are still, to this day, trying to disentangle it.  Related to this, I also teach/write on the continuing ‘memory and history wars’ which show us how the war in Spain remains ‘unfinished business’, and not only inside Spain itself, but across Europe, and in Britain too. I’ve just written a think piece on this for the journal Contemporary European History, to be published this summer (2020).

My sixth book, now close to completion, and provisionally entitled Lives at the Limit is a series of interwoven biographies exploring Europe’s dark mid twentieth century through the medium of five ‘diasporic’ lives (German, Austrian, Finnish-American and two from Spain – respectively a writer, photographer, working-class poet, military commander-turned diplomat and an artist and journalist). All these lives passed through the war in Spain, and the book looks at how that conflict would afterwards become iconic for progressive people across Europe and the world.  I’m also working on a related exhibition project.

My other books include the 1995 volume (with Jo Labanyi) Spanish Cultural Studies (Oxford University Press) which is now the standard text in the field in UK and US universities.  Another of mine, The Spanish Civil War. A Very Short Introduction (2005), published in the Oxford series of that name, has sold more than 50,000 copies in English and been translated into Spanish, German, Turkish, Greek and Portuguese (twice!, also Brazilian Portuguese). 

I’m currently the holder of a three-year Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship (2018-21) for a project on Franco’s prisons. 

More information about my research is available via PURE

Email -

European interwar

Europe 1914-1948


European civil wars

Spanish civil war


politics of memory

memory wars  (Melvyn Bragg, In our Time; several book reviews, in LRB, Guardian, Independent, most recently there’ll be an upcoming  book review in the Guardian (for March 2020 publication, it’s a review by me of Paul Preston’s A People Betrayed

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