Franco-American Emotional Relations in the Early Cold War 1948-1949

Date / time: 28 March, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

In 1949, the French people sent 52,000 objects to Americans in thanks for their military aid in the Second World War, and their humanitarian aid ever since. The gifts – vases, handkerchiefs, books, drawings, ceramic figurines, dolls, knitted baby hats, silk wedding dresses, military medals, smoking pipes – were packed into 49 antique boxcars and arrived in New York City in February 1949. The Gratitude Train, as it was known, drew in large crowds across the country, and celebrations were organised across the nation as each state received a boxcar. Afterwards, the gift objects were distributed to the public or preserved by state museums and archives.

Through the little-known story of the Gratitude Train, Ludivine Broch re-thinks transatlantic relations in the early Cold War period, 1946-49. An area of history typically examined through the lens of political tension and economic reconstruction, she asks what objects, emotions, and civilians can tell us about the complexity of those immediate postwar years, and about the politics of gratitude which helped shape the post-war world.

Ludivine Broch is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Westminster. She is the author of Ordinary Workers: French Railwaymen, Vichy and the Holocaust (2016) which was published by Cambridge University Press and translated into French with Tallandier. She edited a volume on France in the period of the World Wars, has contributed chapters to edited volumes and written several articles on the topic of rescue in the Holocaust, memory, railwaymen and most recently on colonial resisters in Vichy France. Her work has appeared in Diaspora, Contemporary European History and French Politics, Culture and Society. She is currently working on a history of material culture, emotions and international relations in postwar France which has been funded by the British Academy and Leverhulme.

This event will take place online and in-person at the University of Westminster: Cayley Room, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2HW

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