I teach courses in modern European and French history, including the French Revolution, Europe during the World Wars, Nazi art looting, and seminars on the history and memory of World War II in France and the Algerian war of independence. My first book, Defending National Treasures: French Art and Heritage under Vichy, (Stanford University Press, 2011), examines French cultural preservation during the German occupation, including the Vichy regime's reaction to Nazi looting of Jewish art collections. I argue that the French government protested looting not in defense of the Jewish collectors, but in an assertion of its own sovereignty. Drawing on research in French archives, my book reveals French efforts to acquire permanently for the Louvre and other state-run museums works of art from several Jewish collections, complicating an enduring narrative of anti-Nazi Resistance in the fine arts administration.
My current book project focuses on the Allied recovery of art that had been looted from Jewish collections by the Nazis or sold under duress during the Occupation, comparing restitution practices in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. In all three cases, the postwar governments held unclaimed works for display in state-run museums, setting the stage for controversy and litigation in the 1990s, and ongoing cultural property disputes.
Current research supported by the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities