Research Projects

As a research fellow, it’s quite literally my job to undertake juicy research.  Here’s my current projects that I am exploring:

1) “Humanitarian Action and Translation” (Collaborative Project with Dr Elisabeth Möckli at University of Geneva)

During the Second World War, the Swiss government campaigned to international audiences to gain support for various Swiss-led humanitarian projects, including the evacuation of 60,000 European children to Switzerland. Our project, which won the SPARK award (75,000CHF) from the Swiss National Science Foundation, will explore how language and translation affected the practical unfolding and fundraising efforts around these major child evacuations. By doing so, we hope to shed light on how the traditions of Swiss neutrality and diplomacy are connected to today’s language policies and practices in Switzerland; and the effective use of language within multilingual conflict zones. 

Our project “Humanitarian Action and Translation” began in February 2020 and despite the pandemic, we were able to gather data from five Europe archives. The project officially ended in January 2022, but we will continue to produce outputs over the coming year. Watch this space! 

Elisabeth (Toufou) and I meeting to discuss the project in Fribourg, Switzerland, in November 2021.

2) Collecting Oral History Testimony from Surviving Evacuees (Small Project)

As part of the Humanitarian Action and Translation project (above), we have started collecting surviving evacuees testimonies of French and Belgian children (now adults) who were sent to Switzerland during the Second World War. While my PhD research laid the groundwork for this type of data collection, the evacuees’ experiences are yet unrecorded. Children evacuated to Switzerland were 4 to 14 years old, thus evacuees will be aged 77 to 96 years old (by 2022). It is my hope to locate these “children” to ask them directly about their experiences.  Survivors’ first hand accounts will reconstruct the evacuations as an intimate personal experience, rather than simply a negotiation between governments and politicians.

3) Writing my first book, The Exceptional Evacuation (McGill-Queen’s University Press, forthcoming 2023). 

Based on my PhD and subsequent research in Europe and the USA, this book explores the unusual and lesser-known evacuation of 60,000 French and Belgian children to Switzerland during the Second World War to discover the ways in which global powers and humanitarian actors perceived, exploited and negotiated children’s value in war. As of February 2022, I’m already half way through and just need to buckle down and finish the last half. My goal is to have a manuscript to my publisher (Canada’s best academic publisher) by September 2022. 

Publications

Peer-Reviewed Articles

Sambells, Chelsea. The Exceptional Evacuation: Switzerland’s Child Evacuations During the Second World War. Toronto: McGill-Queens University Press. (Forthcoming 2023).

Sambells, Chelsea. “The Catalysts of 1938: European Child Evacuations as Humanitarian Innovation.” In A Transnational History of Forced Migrants in Europe: Unwilling Nomads in the Age of Two World Wars, edited by Bas Willems and Michal Palacz. London: Bloomsbury, 2022. (Forthcoming, 2022).

Sambells, Chelsea. “‘Children are to be regarded as propaganda’: Contradictions of German Occupation Policies in the Child Evacuations to Switzerland 1941-1942.” European History Quarterly, 51, no. 1 (February 2021): 76-97.

Sambells, Chelsea. “Convenient and Conditional Humanitarianism: Evacuating French and French Jewish Children to Switzerland during the Second World War.” Nottingham French Studies 59, no. 2 (Summer 2020): 174-190Full text here.

Sambells, Chelsea. “Saving Foreign Children from ‘Moral Decay’: Switzerland’s Children’s Homes during the Second World War.” Journal for the History of Childhood and Youth 11, no. 1 (Winter 2018): 5-26. Full text here.

Sambells, Chelsea. “The Plight of Belgian Children: The Allied Interest in the Child Evacuation Scheme, 1942-1945.” In Children and War Past and Present II, edited by Grazi Prontera, Wolfgang Aschauer, John Buckley, Helga Embachler, Albert Lichtblau and Johannes-Dieter Steinert. Solihull: Helion & Co., 2016. See here.

Sambells, Chelsea. “Self-Motivated Humanitarianism?: The Study of the Evacuation of Belgian and French Children to Switzerland, 1941-1945.” In Droits des enfants au XXe siècle: Pour une histoire transnationale, edited by Yves Denéchère and David Niget. Rennes: University of Rennes, 2015. See here.

Sambells, Chelsea. “Memories, Identity and Mother Russia: A Study of the Russian-Chechen Conflict.” STREAM Culture/Politics/Technology 2 (2009): 53-59.

Web-based Publications

Sambells, Chelsea. “Dignity in the Holocaust: Themes of Resistance in Oral History Testimonies.” Wiener Library Online Blog (15 December 2017).

Sambells, Chelsea. “5 Things I’ve Learned in Pubs as a PhD Student.” Pubs and Publications Online Blog (4 September 2015).