France and the Second World War: the Cambridge Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection (1944-1946) at Cambridge University Library

This AHRC-funded doctoral award in French History (Open-Oxford-Cambridge Doctoral Training Partnership) is a collaborative project of the Open University and Cambridge University Library.

The selected Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) PhD candidate, Sophie Dubillot, is using material from the Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection and the abundant press of the Liberation period to examine humorous drawings in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War in France (1944-46).

Entitled Ce n'est pas une blague: Purposes and Limits of Visual Humour in Early Post-War France (1944-46)’, Sophie Dubillot's project aims to examine visual humour's forms, functions, and limits at a time when the French had to negotiate the delicate post-war transition back to peace. Her research focuses on how humour served to redefine the French nation in the early post-war period and how different influences on the drawings encouraged or stifled particular voices.


The main corpus for this project is the Cambridge University Library Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection, collected and donated by Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey. It consists of about 3,200 books and pamphlets published in French in the immediate post-war period (1944-1946). Catalogued to the highest standards, the collection is a key bibliographic database for primary sources about the French experience of the Second World War. It encompasses a wide range of material, including novels, poetry, illustrated books, photographic albums, literature for children, testimonies from the camps, military works, and political publications.

Sophie Dubillot's project aims to study, for the first time through the lens of the cartoons in the Liberation Collection, how the French experienced the period between the Allied landings in Normandy in June 1944 and the re-establishment of democratic legality in October 1946. The project seeks to address gaps in the fields of French Cultural History and Art History, while borrowing from the Philosophy of Humour.

This collaborative doctoral award also aims to raise public awareness of and engagement with the Liberation Collection through talks, lectures, blogposts and exhibitions at the Open University, the University of Cambridge and international academic conferences, and by contributing content to OpenLearn, the OU's online learning platform.

The lead supervisor for this PhD is Dr Luc-André Brunet, Senior Lecturer in Contemporary International History at the Open University, whose research focuses on France in the 1940s, with a particular interest in Vichy France and the Second World War.

The Cambridge University Library supervisor is the French Specialist, Dr Irène Fabry-Tehranchi, who is the curator in charge of the Chadwyck-Healey Liberation collection.

Image of a cartoon wolf in a nazi costume with the words La bête est morte!

Victor Dancette, Jacques Zimmermann, La bête est morte! : la guerre mondiale chez les animaux. Images by Calvo. Paris : Editions G.P., 1944-45. (Liberation.a.36a-36b

Victor Dancette, Jacques Zimmermann, La bête est morte! : la guerre mondiale chez les animaux. Images by Calvo. Paris : Editions G.P., 1944-45. (Liberation.a.36a-36b

"After working as a bibliographical researcher on the Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection for over six years, I could not envisage letting go of such a treasure trove and was over the moon when I was offered this collaborative doctoral award.

This has been a dream opportunity to work on a fantastic and unique archive with the support and expertise of French Historians and a specialist Librarian.   

The Liberation Collection publications were printed at a particularly challenging time for the French, and I was surprised to find that it contained many humorous drawings. I wanted to understand why so much humour was produced and whether the French could laugh about everything in the immediate post-war period."

Sophie Dubillot, PhD student on project

Engage with the project

Blog posts:

As part of the project, several blog posts have been written about the Liberation collection on the Cambridge University Library’s European Languages Across Borders blog.

You can browse blogs related to the Liberation collection on its webpage:

Social media:

Engage with content related to the project and the Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection collections by joining the Facebook group.


Flickr album

The Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection's Flickr album provides access to about 400 photographs of the collections. The name of the pictures is their classmark in the Cambridge University Library collection where the books are held. Some of the pictures in the Flickr album link to relevant articles on the Liberation collection in the European Languages Across Borders blog.

There is a distinct dataset of all Liberation collection book covers (c. 3300). The metadata is available online, but if you are interested in accessing the cover pictures, please get in touch at

Project team

Sophie Dubillot

PhD student

Dr Luc-André Brunet

Lead project supervisor -
Open University

Dr Irene Fabry-Tehranchi

Project supervisor -
Cambridge University Library

Dr Vincent Trott

Co-supervisor -
Open University

Collection items featured
Headline image: Léon Husson, L’Occupant. St-Nicolas-de Port : Imprimerie V. Idoux, 1946. (Liberation.a.351).   
Illustration of figure graffitiing: Jean Sennep, ‘Dans l'honneur et la dignité’ : souvenirs de Vichy. Paris : Société des Éditions de Franc-Tireur, 1944. (Liberation.b.39).