Dr Jean-Michel Johnston

Lecturer in Modern European History
Fellow of Fitzwilliam College
I am a historian of Germany and western Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with a particular focus on the development of communications networks. I also work on the history of the Armenian diaspora in Britain, France and Germany during the nineteenth century.
I am currently Co-Investigator on an AHRC-funded project led by my colleague Dr Anna Ross (University of Warwick), entitled 'Imperial Afterlives: Life in the Wake of the German Empire, 1918-1934'.
Born in London, I was educated in Britain and France. I completed my D.Phil. in history at the University of Oxford, where I then spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher on the ERC-funded ‘Diseases of Modern Life’ project. I was also a visiting lecturer at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen in the Summer Semester of 2019, before then moving to Cambridge and Fitzwilliam College in September.
I work on the social and cultural history of modern Europe, with a focus on the development of communications networks during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. My interests range from the cultures of innovation that shape new technologies, to the role of new media in transforming the relationship between state and society, and their impact upon experiences of time, space and modernity. 

In my first book, I investigated the origins and impact of telegraphic communication in Germany between 1830 and 1880 - a crucial phase in the country's encounter with modernity. The book begins by exploring the exchanges between scientists, bureaucrats, entrepreneurs and amateur technicians across Germany and beyond who worked towards the development of the technology. It goes on to reveal the profound influence of this new, quasi-instantaneous means of communication upon the course of German history after 1848, highlighting both the connections and the divisions which telegraph networks stimulated in society, politics and culture, and which came to characterise Germany in the late nineteenth century.
I am pursuing two long-term projects. The first investigates the emergence of a connected Europe in the mid- to late nineteenth century. It considers the many different communications networks that were envisaged and constructed across the continent between c.1830 and c.1920, the visions that sustained them, the communities they created, the divisions they fostered, and the 'networks of privilege’ that connected urban elites across Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and beyond. The second is a history of the Armenian diaspora in western Europe during the long nineteenth century, and its entanglement in the political, socio-economic and cultural development of the continent.
I teach Part I, Paper 17 (European History, 1715-1890) and Paper 18 (European History since 1890), as well as a number of themes for the Historical Argument and Practice paper.


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Fitzwilliam College, Storey's Way, Cambridge CB3 0DG