Dr Ursula Haskins Gonthier BA, MPhil, DPhil

Lecturer in French Studies

Department of Modern Languages: French Studies

Photograph of Dr Ursula Haskins Gonthier

Contact details

Ashley Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


I am passionate about the history, literature and culture of France under the ancien régime. My main areas of research interest are French Enlightenment philosophy - particularly the work of Montesquieu - and relations between France and its colonies in the New World from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. I also work on exchanges of texts and ideas between England and France during this period. I am fascinated by developments in France's relations with the wider world, and am currently investigating French writing on Iran from Montesquieu's Lettres persanes to the present day.


  • BA (Hons) with Licence de Lettres modernes
  • MPhil in European Literature (Cantab)
  • DPhil (Oxon)


Before coming to Birmingham I studied French at the University of Kent, completed an MPhil in European Literature at Cambridge, and then moved to Oxford to write my doctoral thesis. In the course of my first degree I spent a year at the Université Stendhal in Grenoble, France, where I gained the Licence de Lettres modernes. I have also previously taught French literature at the University of Warwick, and translation at Oxford.


I currently run a final year option on France and the New World which looks at the early history of French colonialism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Through the study of early modern texts that address relations between France and its colonies, this course tackles themes such as slavery, racial discrimination and human rights. I also lead the second-year Renaissance to Realism course that introduces students to some of the great works of French literature from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. I also teach French language classes.


My research focuses on French colonisation in the early modern period, and on the French Enlightenment. I have a particular interest in the work of Montesquieu, and in eighteenth-century political theory in the period prior to the Revolution. I am also interested in exploring Anglo-French intellectual relations in the eighteenth century.

Other activities




  • ‘Une colonisation linguistique? Les Mémoires de l’Amérique septentrionale de Lahontan’, Études françaises, vol. 45, issue 2, 2009, pp. 115-129
  • ‘Persians, politics and politeness: Montesquieu reads Shaftesbury’, Nottingham French Studies, vol. 48, issue 3, 2009, pp. 4-15
  • ‘“La difference de couleur n’en fait point dans l’âme”: Behn’s Oroonoko and the French Anti-slavery debate’, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 31, issue 2, 2008, pp. 209-222

Critical editions

  • ‘Joseph Addison: Remarques sur différentes parties d’Italie en 1701, 1702, 1703’, in Œuvres complètes de Montesquieu, vol.16, Voltaire Foundation, Oxford, 2007, pp. 6-22

Edited conference proceedings

  • Multilingualism and Multiculturalism in the Age of Enlightenment: Proceedings of the International Seminar for Young Eighteenth-Century Scholars 2004, Champion, Paris, 2007
  • ‘L’Opinion / les opinions au dix-huitième siècle’, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, Voltaire Foundation, Oxford, issue 12, 2007

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