Christophe Gillain

Postdoctoral Affiliate in Early Modern History

I am a postdoctoral affiliate in early modern history, looking at mobility, exile, and asylum. My PhD thesis, entitled 'Cardinal de Retz, French Noble Exile, and Political Mobility in Seventeenth-Century Europe' was supervised by Professor Renaud Morieux and supported by the Cambridge Trust, St John's College, the Society for the Study of French History, and the Cambridge Paris Society. The thesis examines how it was commonplace for rebellious seventeenth-century French elites to flee to neighbouring countries such as England, Italy, or the Spanish Netherlands. These rebels organised transnational networks of resistance to the French crown and its ministers, and became deeply entangled in European politics as they sought diplomatic and military backing from foreign powers. I argue that, by challenging royal and ministerial authority in the years prior to Louis XIV’s personal reign, exiles played a central role in shaping the absolutist French state. 

Before beginning my doctoral studies, I completed an MA thesis at the University of Auckland on violence and affection in seventeenth-century French aristocratic memoirs. At the same university, I also wrote a BA(Hons) dissertation on public perceptions of kingship in the reign of Louis XV.

Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France and Europe; mobility and transnationalism; international law; aristocratic culture and absolutism; sociability and emotions; friendship and patronage; violence; gender and masculinity; bodies and sacrality; kingship; public opinion; memoir-writing and self-fashioning. 

Outline Paper 5: Europe in the World, c. 1450-1780. 

Part II-Paper 11: Early Medicine

Part II-Paper 14: Material Culture in the Early Modern World. 

HAP Lecturer on Memory and Gender. 


'Ceremonies of Asylum: Receiving French Political Exiles in Seventeenth-Century Europe', paper given at the Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, Chicago, March 2024. 

'Subjecthood and Sovereignty on the Margins: French Rebels in Exile in Seventeenth-Century Europe', paper given at From the Interstices: Geographies, Identities, Solidarities, and Institutions in France, the Francophone World, and Beyond, the 69th Annual Meeting of the Society for French Historical Studies, Hofstra University, March 2024. 

'A "dangerous instrument in the present state of troubled affairs": French rebels in exile at the Stuart court, 1638-1642', paper given at the Tudor & Stuart History Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, February 2024. 

'Anxieties of Asylum: Emotions, Elite Sociability, and the Reception of French Exiles in Seventeenth-Century Europe', paper given at Encounters/ Rencontres, the 35th Annual Conference for the Society for the Study of French History, Exeter College, University of Oxford, April 2022. 

'Rebellious letters: The political mobility of Cardinal de Retz in exile', paper given at Distant Communications, Online Conference, July 2021. 

'Resistance across borders: French noble exile and political mobility after the Fronde', paper given at the conference Disruptions to authority, 1450-1750: Compliance and challenge in early modern society, University of Portsmouth, June 2021. 

'"Where my presence drew continual reproaches from the Court of France": Cardinal de Retz and the Spatial Politics of Exile’, paper given at the Workshop for the Early Modern Period, University of Cambridge, April 2021.

'Violent Affection: Writing the self in three seventeenth-century aristocratic memoirs’, paper given at the conference Amour et Amitié au Grand Siècle, University of Ghent, May 2019.


Tags & Themes


Key publications

Articles and Chapters: 

L’affection violente: Écrire le moi dans les mémoires du Sieur de Pontis et de Henri de Campion’, in Delphine Calle and Astrid Van Assche (eds.), L’amour et L’amitié au Grand Siècle (Classiques Garnier, Paris, 2022), pp. 27-39. Available at:

Book Reviews:

'Monsieur: Second Sons in the Monarchy of France, 1550-1800, by Jonathan Spangler', H-France, 23, 142 (August 2023). Available at:

'Europe and the British Geographical Imagination, 1760-1830, by Paul Stock’, The English Historical Review, 135, 581 (August 2021), pp. 1075-1076. Available at:

Blog Posts:

'Feature Archive: The Bibliothèque de l'Institut de France', French History Network Blog, 27 March 2022. Available at: