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The Australian National University

Dr Gemma Betros

Lecturer in European History

Position: Lecturer in European History

Staff Category: Academic


Phone: +61 (0) 2 6125 2720, x 52720

Location: HC Coombs Building (9), Room 2121


Bachelor of Arts in History and French (University of Queensland)

First Class Honours in History (University of Queensland)

M.Phil in European Studies (University of Cambridge)

PhD in History (University of Cambridge)

ANU Researcher's Website URL:


I am a historian of revolutionary and Napoleonic France, specialising in the intersection of gender, politics and religion. My work to date focuses on the closure of convents in Paris during the French Revolution and their re-establishment under Napoleonic rule.

Biography and Interests:

Born in Queensland, I began my studies at the University of Queensland where I did a Bachelor of Arts in History and French—which included a six-month exchange at the Institut d’études politiques de Rennes— followed by an Honours year in History.  I then moved to the United Kingdom to pursue my postgraduate studies at the University of Cambridge where I was a student of Peterhouse, completing an M.Phil in European Studies and a PhD in History with the support of a Commonwealth Scholarship, a Peterhouse Research Studentship, and the 2006 University of Cambridge Lightfoot Fund Scholarship. My PhD research attracted a number of grants, including funding from the Society for the Study of French History and the Cambridge Society of Paris, and prizes from the Women’s History Network and Ecclesiastical History Society.

My first academic position was as a Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Leeds from 2007-08, where I taught courses on the Enlightenment, French Revolution, and Napoleon. I returned to Australia in 2009 to take up my current position as Lecturer in European History at The Australian National University. In 2011, I was selected for the university’s Early Career Academic Program for ‘outstanding staff in the early stages of their career’. In 2012-13, I took leave from the ANU in order to accept a position as Research Associate and Visiting Assistant Professor on the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at the Harvard Divinity School, where I created the new course, HDS2110 – Power, politics, and the female religious life.

I am a passionate teacher and was recently awarded The Australian National University’s 2015 College of Arts and Social Sciences Award for Excellence in Education, and 2016 Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Education. I am currently a nominee for the national awards for teaching excellence run by the Australian Government’s Office for Learning & Teaching. 

I am also involved in several cross-campus initiatives at The Australian National University. Since 2011, I have been a member of the university’s Network for Early Career Teachers, Academics and Researchers (NECTAR). I am a founding member of the university’s French Research Cluster, established in 2014 to promote innovative research into French and Francophone culture and society. In 2015, I was appointed an Early Career Academic Fellow of University House.

As part of my interest in sharing my work with the wider community, I regularly give public lectures, and have spoken at such events as the Jane Austen Festival of Australia and the Australian International Chopin Piano Competition.

Research Interests:

  • Gender, politics, and religion in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France
  • The history of women religious (nuns)
  • Literature, theatre and religion in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France
  • Napoleon Bonaparte


Articles and Papers

‘Liberty, citizenship, and the suppression of female religious communities in France, 1789-90’, Women’s History Review, vol. 18, no. 2 (2009), pp. 311-36. Awarded the 2006 Clare Evans National Essay Prize by the Women’s History Network (United Kingdom).

‘Napoleon and the revival of female religious communities’ in Jeremy Gregory and Kate Cooper (eds), Revival and Resurgence in Christian History (Studies in Church History), vol. 44 (2008), pp.185-95.  Awarded the 2007 Michael Kennedy Prize by the Ecclesiastical History Society (United Kingdom).

Edited Journal

‘Introduction’ and guest editor of Proceedings of the XVIth George Rudé Seminar in French History and Civilization (9-11 July 2008), vol. 3 (2009).

Selected Book Reviews

Review of David Garrioch, The Huguenots of Paris and the Coming of Religious Freedom, 1685-1789 (June 2016)

Review of Timothy Verhoeven, Transatlantic Anti-Catholicism. France and the United States in the Nineteenth Century (February 2013)


Teaching Awards

2016 The Australian National University Vice-Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Education

2015 The Australian National University College of Arts and Social Sciences' Award for Excellence in Education

Research Fellowships

2012 - 2013 Research Associate and Visiting Assistant Professor, Women's Studies in Religion Program, Harvard Divinity School

2012 Chawton House Library Visiting Fellowship

2012 Australian Academy of the Humanities Ernst Keller European Travelling Fellowship

Projects and Grants:

Sacred Liberty: the nuns of Paris, the French Revolution, and Napoleon (Book adaptation of my PhD on the closure of convents in Paris during the French Revolution)

Napoleon Bonaparte (A biography of Napoleon Bonaparte, contracted to Routledge for its 'Historical Biographies' series)

Conversion, toleration, and the Parisian convent of the Nouvelles catholiques, 1704-92 (Examines the Parisian convent of the 'Nouvelles catholiques' or 'New Catholics' and its efforts to convert Protestant girls and women to Catholicism)

Catholicism and the novels Adélaïde de Souza (Examines representations of religion and gender in the work of French author Adélaïde de Souza in the wake of the French Revolution)


EURO1004: Europe in the Modern Era (1450-1914)

HIST2223/6223: The French Revolution and Napoleon

HIST2228/6228: Enlightenment Worlds


Updated: 14 June 2016/ Responsible Officer:  Head of School / Page Contact:  Web Publisher