Laura O'Brien

Senior Lecturer

Research interests

Laura’s research interests are primarily focused on the cultural, social and political history of modern Europe, with a particular interest in visual culture in nineteenth and twentieth-century France.

Laura’s enduring interest in visual culture is reflected in the subject of her first book, The republican line: caricature and French republican identity, 1830-52 (Manchester University Press, 2015). This work shows how political caricature was used as a means of discussing, defining and articulating notions of republican identity during a turbulent period in modern French and European history, which coincided with a ‘golden age’ in French graphic satire.

Her current research is focused on two main projects. The first looks at the construction of memories of revolution in France between 1848 and 1948, with a focus on two key research strands: writing the history of 1848 in the nineteenth century, including the impact of exile and transnational exchanges on the formation of these contemporary historical perspectives; and a study of revolution, commemoration and decolonisation in the 1948 centenary of the revolution of 1848.

Laura's other current work examines Napoleonic performance in French theatre and film from the 1790s to the present. This research asks how the immediately recognisable figure of Napoleon was 'invented' through theatrical and cinematic performance, and how these performances reflected the socio-political contemporary contexts in which they originated. More broadly, this work marks a new departure in the study of how historical figures are portrayed and mediated.

Laura is also developing her interests in religious history, with planned research projects including a study of the relationship between religion, society and conceptions of modernity in France and Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Laura’s interdisciplinary approach to her research underpins and informs her teaching at all levels, most notably in her final-year module on revolution, culture and urban life in nineteenth-century Paris.

Laura is also active in the area of public engagement. In addition to leading Northumbria's contribution to the 2018 Being Human Festival, she has appeared on BBC Radio 3 and has contributed to The History Show on Irish national radio. Laura is also interested in the use of digital and social media as tools for historians. Follow Laura on Twitter: @lrbobrien  

Organisational affiliations

Education/Academic qualification

  • PhD, History

    30 Jun 2009 - 31 Dec 2099

Professional Qualifications

  • Fellow (FHEA), Higher Education Academy (HEA)

    4 Nov 2015 -