Research and Teaching Interests

Submitted by Ellen R. Boucher on Monday, 7/15/2019, at 10:42 AM

I am a social and cultural historian of Modern Europe. Trained as a historian of modern Britain, my research spans the Victorian era through the 20th century, with a particular concentration on the British empire, the history of childhood, and (most recently) on popular responses to warfare.

My book, Empire's Children: Child Emigration, Welfare, and the Decline of the British World, 1869-1967 (Cambridge University Press, 2014), combined multi-country archival research with original oral history interviews to tell the story of Britain's child migrants: the roughly 90,000 poor or orphaned British children who were sent by charities and government officials to start new lives in the "white dominions" of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Southern Rhodesia. In tracing how the policy of child emigration became a critical site of contestation over the meaning of imperial Britishness and the lasting influence of the "British world," Empire's Children reveals the powerful ways that imperial politics shaped modern child welfare, as well as how ideas about children and childhood structured the boundaries of the politically possible during the twilight of empire. In 2015, it received the Grace Abbott Book Prize from the Society for the History of Children and Youth, a biennial award that recognizes the best book published in the history of children and youth. The paperback of Empire's Children will be available in March of 2016. To listen to a podcast I did with Monica Black about the book, click here.

My current research centers on the themes of risk and survival within modern British culture. I am interested in how ordinary men and women imagined their own and their society's survival in the era of total war and atomic weaponry. Taking a long view, I examine the emergence of a new understanding of survival as a form of skilled knowledge in the context of late nineteenth century imperial expansion, and then follow how this vision changed in response to the evolving nature of modern warfare. The project brings together a fascinating range of topics, from Arctic exploration to first aid classes, debates over food hoarding to bomb shelters, science fiction doomsayers to British survivalists. In 2015 I was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities summer stipend for the project, which I will use in the summer of 2016 to conduct archival research in the United States and Britain.

I teach a variety of classes within the field of Modern European history, including courses on the British Empire, the French Revolution, World War I, the history of childhood, and migration. I have also taught an advanced seminar on gender, class, and crime in Victorian Britain, and have co-taught a first-year seminar that interrogates the nature of genocide. I enjoy using different kinds of primary sources in my teaching, such as novels, poems, official reports, oral histories, and songs. A particular interest of mine is how imagery has shaped culture and society over time, and as such I use a lot of visual sources in my teaching, including photographs, artwork, cartoons, and films.

I am always happy to work with students on thesis research within European history. My research interests make me particularly able to advise projects related to modern Britain and France, European imperialism, childhood, migration, oral history, and warfare, but I am open to exploring topics with students that range farther afield. If you have an idea for a thesis and want to talk about it, feel free to drop by my office hours.

Selected Publications

Submitted by Ellen R. Boucher on Monday, 12/16/2019, at 11:13 AM


Empire's Children: Child Emigration, Welfare, and the Decline of the British World, 1869-1967 (Cambridge University Press, 2014). Winner of the 2015 Grace Abbott Book Prize.

Articles and Book Chapters

"Anticipating Armageddon: Nuclear Risk and the Neoliberal Sensibility in Thatcher's Britain," American Historical Review 124, no. 4 (October 2019): 1221-1245.

"Arctic Mysteries and Imperial Ambitions: the Hunt for John Franklin and the Victorian Culture of Survival," The Journal of Modern History 90 (March 2018): 40-75.

"Intimacy and Emotions across the European Empires," Journal of Women's History 29, no. 3 (Autumn 2017): 161-168.

"Cultivating Internationalism: Save the Children Fund, Public Opinion, and the Meaning of Child Relief, 1919-24," in Brave New World: Imperial and Democratic Nation-Building in Britain between the Wars, ed. Laura Beers and Geraint Thomas (London: Institute for Historical Research, 2012), 169-188.

“The Limits of Potential: Race, Welfare, and the Interwar Extension of Child Emigration to Southern Rhodesia,” Journal of British Studies 48 (October 2009): 914-934.

  • Winner of the 2010 Neil Sutherland Biennial Article Prize from the Canadian Historical Association for the best article in the history of childhood.
  • Translated into French as: "Enfance et race dans l’Empire britannique. La politique d’émigration juvénile vers la Rhodésie du Sud," trans. Romain Bigé, Revue d’histoire de l’enfance irrégulière / Journal of the History of "Irregular" Childhood 14 (2012).

Public Writing

"It's Time to Ditch Our Deadlines," The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 22, 2016.

"The Dangers of Depicting Greta Thunberg as a Prophet," The Conversation, December 12, 2019

  • Translated into Spanish, Portuguese, and Indonesian.




Submitted by Ellen R. Boucher on Wednesday, 1/13/2016, at 2:04 PM

PhD, Columbia University (2008)
MA, Columbia University (2002)
BA, University of Michigan (2000)