With my PhD complete, I am discovering new and innovative ways to investigate aspects of my research. These are the current projects that I am exploring:
1) Making History Relevant (Fortnightly Blog)
While history is fascinating and alluring, there is a tendency among some historians to perpetually remain in a small intellectual “bubble” of extraneous facts and data. This is a huge disservice to history as both a field of study, but also as a useful tool for investigating recurrent crises. By writing publicly-accessible blogs about various relevant aspects of history, communications and policy, I hope to explore modern problems through a more innovative lens.
2) Collecting Oral History Testimony from Surviving Evacuees (Small Grant or Postdoctoral Project)
This project seeks to evaluate one of the largest transnational child evacuations of the Second World War by collecting surviving evacuees testimonies regarding their experiences. My PhD research laid the groundwork for this type of data collection, as I have already visited the national archives of the participating governments, thereby establishing both how and why this evacuation unfolded. However, the remaining gap in the literature is to explore the evacuees’ experiences, as they are yet unrecorded. Children evacuated to Switzerland were 4 to 14 years old, thus evacuees will be aged 73 to 92 years old (by 2018). It is my hope to locate these “children” to ask them directly about their experiences during their selection, journey to/from Switzerland, their stay with Swiss hosts, and anything else they deem important. Survivors’ first hand accounts will reconstruct the evacuations as an intimate personal experience, rather than simply a negotiation between governments and politicians. This project will contribute to both children’s and humanitarian history, offering another strategic resource to help make some elements of humanitarian action (and history) more self-reflexive and effective.
3) Why did the Nazis authorise and terminate these evacuations? (Journal Article and Conference)
One of the most controversial aspects of my work is the fact that many of the evacuated children were selected from German-occupied territories. Although historians have argued that the Military Administration for Belgium and Northern France was an unusual occupying regime, due to the less-than-fanatical commanders who controlled its daily operations, Alexander von Falkenhausen and Eggert Reeder, my article explores the reasons these two men consented to this humanitarian gesture. My article then explores the infighting between these commanders and the Nazi offices in Berlin regarding this child evacuation, and what that tells us about German occupation policies in the western territories. Why did the Nazis authorise this evacuation and, equally important, why was did Hitler terminate the evacuations? In early 2018, I submitted this article to a prestigious journal (let’s hope it’s accepted!).
4) Roosevelt’s Broken Promises for Relief to Norway and Belgium in 1942 (Journal Article and FDR Library Archival Trip in September 2017)
This article will explore the failed attempts by the British and American wartime governments to send relief through the European blockade to German-occupied Belgium. However, in October 1942, FDR informally (and without consulting the British) promised relief to German-occupied Norway. When the British heard of FDR’s assurances, they insisted that there was no way that relief could be sent to Norway without it being allowed also to Belgium. But FDR never replied. Silence ensued. This led to strained and heated discussions between British and US departments, and eventually Churchill and FDR, about humanitarian relief measures for Europe. This study will explore this infighting, and the ways in which Allied blockade policy was constructed and shaped by the demands of war, which was subordinate only to military objectives, rather than humanitarian considerations. After being awarded $1,750 USD by the Roosevelt Institute, I visited the FDR Library in September 2017 to investigate these questions. Fortunately, after great frustration (see my blog), I was able to discover many of the answers to my questions. I will draft an article about my findings and submit it to an American history journal in late 2018.
Sambells, Chelsea. “Convenient and Conditional Humanitarianism: Evacuating French and French-Jewish Children to Switzerland during the Second World War.” Nottingham French Studies (Forthcoming, 2020).
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. “Dignity in the Holocaust: Themes of Resistance in Oral History Testimonies.” Weiner 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).