History of the ASMCF
Celebrating the founders of the ASMCF
The ASMCF was founded in 1979 by pioneers of an interdisciplinary approach to French Studies that went beyond the literary canon. Several generations of scholars came together at a time when many French departments across the UK followed more traditional ways of examining France and the French. These pioneers advanced our ways of understanding modern and contemporary France and the French-speaking world through the study of politics, history, film, literature, poetry and much more.
The founders of the Association came from a range of institutions and backgrounds and across several generations. Many of these scholars were based at teaching-focussed institutions, advancing the way French and francophone studies were taught across the whole UK Higher Education sector.
The ASMCF would like to thank everyone who was involved in the foundation of the Association. As part of our annual prizes, we recognise the contribution of three academics who served in leadership roles in the Association at its foundation and well into its first two decades. We are happy to be able to share more about these scholars on this page.
We provide three annual prizes (for undergraduate essays; undergraduate dissertations and to fund postgraduate travel) in recognition of the contribution of three of our founders. We are delighted to provide more information about these academics here, based upon conversations with colleagues who knew these pioneering scholars.
Brian Darling taught aspects of France and the French in the Sociology department at the North East London Polytechnic (now University of East London), having previously worked at the University of Surrey. Brian was interested in particular in contemporary French intellectuals and was friendly with the likes of Régis Debray, who he subsequently invited to one of the Association’s conferences. Brian was honorary secretary of the Association for 15 years from the beginning in 1979. Brian is remembered for his great generosity; many executive committee meetings were held at his home on Canteloes road in London and colleagues recall his erudition and affability. Brian was a co-author of the May Day Manifesto, published by Penguin in 1968, working alongside the likes of Stuart Hall, Raymond Williams, Terry Eagleton, Ian Christie and EP Thompson. Brian is thought to have managed to escape from the back door of the Théâtre de l’Odéon in Paris as the students and workers stormed the front entrance during the events of May 1968. Along with his wife June, Brian conceived the original ASMCF logo featuring an image of Marianne. Having been struck down by motor neurone disease, Brian attended his final ASMCF conference at Royal Holloway in 1996 in a wheelchair, but is fondly remembered for delivering the after-dinner speech with his deep, booming and undimmed voice, urging delegates to continue the work of the Association. Brian passed away in January 1997.
Douglas Johnson was a prolific historian of modern France who had a hand in the foundation both of the Association and of the Society for the Study of French History, in many ways a sister organisation to the Association. The Douglas Johnson Memorial Lecture, organised each year jointly by the ASMCF and our friends at the SSFH demonstrates the mutual affection for Douglas’s legacy. Douglas studied at Oxford and the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris, where he met the philosopher Louis Althusser. Douglas then worked at Birmingham and UCL. A prolific writer, Douglas was also called upon by Margaret Thatcher to provide an insight into all things French during her premiership. Douglas passed away in 2005.
A colourful character, Peter Morris wrote widely on French and British politics. Peter spent most of his academic career in Nottingham and had just been appointed Chair of French at Aston when he sadly passed away prematurely in January 1997, the same month as Brian Darling. Peter is remembered as an effervescent character and for his long-time links with Normandy, particularly Barneville, where he had a house. Peter’s work on French politics includes French Politics Today, which became a textbook for many UK courses on contemporary France. Colleagues remember Peter’s support for emerging scholars and for his kindness to new members of the Association.
More information will follow shortly.