David Gilks

David Gilks


  • 3.06 Arts

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Personal profile


I joined UEA in 2014. I took my first degree in History at Trinity College, Cambridge, before winning a Henry Fellowship to Harvard. I returned to Cambridge for my doctoral thesis on cultural politics in France c. 1770-1810 (supervised by Prof. Tim Blanning) for which I spent a year in Paris as a Pensionnaire étranger at the École normale supérieure, Ulm. I was subsequently a Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church, Oxford, and Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Queen Mary University of London.

My research and teaching (described in my research and teaching tabs) focus on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France. However, my interests are eclectic: I have published on twentieth-century Italian intellectual history and on a sixteenth-century Paris fountain, lectured on subjects ranging from seventeenth-century absolutism to interwar eugenics and led MA seminars on Renaissance Paris and Post-war French colonial politics.

Key Research Interests


Past research

I wrote my doctoral thesis on debates and policies surrounding the ‘regeneration’ of the visual arts in France between circa 1770 and 1810, using several writings by Antoine Quatremère de Quincy (1755-1849) as focal points.


My subsequent research investigated attitudes, institutions and frameworks for displacing, preserving and restoring material cultural property. I first examined the displacement of artworks, antiquities, rare books, manuscripts and scientific specimens during the Revolutionary-Napoleonic Wars, but my research then turned to the treatment of immobile, monumental forms of cultural property. A three-year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship allowed me to pursue a project on ‘The conservation and rediscovery of monuments and antiquities in France, 1700-89’, through which I researched an important but neglected shift in how material vestiges of the past were recorded and preserved in France at a time when the country’s origins were disputed. A resulting publication used the Fontaine des Innocents and its ‘afterlives’ as a case study for telling larger, intertwined stories about urban infrastructure, changing notions of authenticity, ‘oldness’ and ‘newness’ values, and the patriotic cult of its creator, Jean Goujon.


Over the last years, I built on my earlier doctoral thesis to write an original 130,000-word intellectual and political biography of Antoine Quatremère de Quincy during the French Revolution – a period when he was often at the forefront of royalist politics while also directing the Panthéon project, opposing the plunder of cultural property from Italy and contributing to several important debates and legislative reforms on artistic, literary, educational and cultural subjects. This book reinterprets his corpus of known writings from the revolutionary decade, identifies him for the first time as the author of several pamphlets and articles that were published anonymously and makes unprecedented use of archival records, including inventories of his first library.


My research interests are broadly as follows and I welcome expressions in related topics from prospective MA and PhD students:

  • French history, c. 1750-1914, especially the French Revolution of 1789
  • Urban history, especially the theory and practice of urban improvements, water politics and the place of historic monuments in cities
  • The history of collecting, museums, art plunder and restitution controversies, especially during the period 1789-1815.
  • Colonial exploration and knowledge-making, c. 1750-1950, especially French and British exploration and related activities to study the landscape, scientific specimens, historic monuments and indigenous peoples.


Publications, reviews and conference and seminar papers



  • Quatremère de Quincy: Art and Politics during the French Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2024).


Critical edition of primary source

  • Annotated and translated Quatremère de Quincy, Letters on the Plan to Abduct Monuments of Art from Italy (1796) and related documents – inAntoine Quatremère de Quincy, Letters to Miranda and Canova on the Abduction of Antiquities from Rome and Athens (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, Texts & Documents Series, 2012), pp. 92-123, 168-77.


Articles and reviews

  • ‘Civilization and its discontents: Quatremère de Quincy and Directorial Political Culture’, French Historical Studies (2022), 45 (3): 481–510.
  • ‘The Fountain of the Innocents and its place in the Paris cityscape’, Urban history (2018) 45: 49-73.
  • ‘Attitudes to the displacement of cultural property in the Wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon’, The Historical Journal (2013) 56: 113-143.
  • ‘Art and politics during the “First” Directory: artists’ petitions and the quarrel over the confiscation of works of art from Italy in 1796’, French History (2012) 26: 53-78.
  • Riforma e Rinascimento, Protestantism and Catholicism in Antonio Gramsci’s writings on Italian history, 1926-35’, Journal of Modern Italian Studies (2007) 12: 286-306.
  • Review: ‘From Deficit to Deluge: The Origins of the French Revolution. Edited by Thomas E. Kaiser and Dale K. Van Kley’, French History (2012) 26: 559-61.
  • Review: ‘Backstage at the Revolution: How the Royal Paris Opera Survived the End of the Old Regime, by Victoria Johnson’, French History (2011) 25: 256-58.


Conference and seminar papers

  • ‘Opposition to the spoliation of Italy during the Revolutionary-Napoleonic Wars and the case for restitution in 1814-15’, for The Society for the History of Collecting's workshop on 'Spoliation and recovery of art and antiquities from Italy', 22 March 2022.
  •  ‘Anti-clericalism and the dispute over plundering Rome during the French revolutionary wars’, for the Colloquium ‘Peripheral visions: European soldiers and cultural encounters in the long nineteenth century’, Trinity College Dublin, 4 June 2016.
  • ‘Quatremère de Quincy and the French Revolution’, University of Kent, History Research Seminar, 16 March 2016.
  • ‘The sense of the past in the city of the future: Paris, 1750-1789’, Centre for Urban History University of Leicester, 7 Nov 2014.
  • ‘The sense of the past in the city of the future: Paris, 1750-1789’, 28th Annual Conference of the Society for the Study of French History, Durham, 12 July 2014.
  • ‘The Fountain of the Innocents and its changing place in the Paris cityscape, 1549-1970’. Centre for Metropolitan History, Institute of Historical Research, Jan 2014.
  •  ‘The transformation ofSt Genevieve into the Pantheon, 1791-94’.Early Modern Symposium, Courtauld Institute, London, Oct 2013.
  • ‘Cultural conflict and exchange in Europe, 1792-1815’, 27th Annual Conference of the Society for the Study of French History, Cardiff, July 2013
  • ‘Urbanism and heritage in Paris, 1775-89’. Materialities of Urban Life in Early Modern Europe conference, Institute of Historical Research, London, April 2013.
  • ‘The conservation of monuments in eighteenth-century France’. QMUL Postdoctoral colloquium, March 2013.
  • ‘The conservation and rediscovery of monuments and antiquities in France, 1700-89’. 25th Annual Conference of the Society for the Study of French History, Cambridge, July 2011.
  • ‘Quatremère de Quincy and the displacement of art, 1787-1818’. History of Art Departmental Seminar, Oxford, May 2011.
  • ‘Art Plunder in the Revolutionary-Napoleonic epoch’. Christ Church Senior Common Room, Oxford, Feb 2011.
  • ‘Urban improvements, hygiene, and artistic heritage in eighteenth-century France’. Enlightenment Workshop, Oxford, Jan 2011.
  • ‘Rhetoric surrounding the seizure of works of art during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars’. Modern French History Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, Oct 2010.
  • ‘Nationalism or Cosmopolitanism? The Quarrel over the Seizure of Art Works from Italy’. Colloquium on Eighteenth-Century Quarrels: Disciplines, Nations, Arts at The Besterman Centre for the Enlightenment, Oxford, Nov 2009.


Teaching Interests

Teaching is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. I currently offer two Second Year modules: ‘France from the Enlightenment to the Belle Epoque’ and ‘Anatomy of a city: Paris, 1682-1815’. I also convene a Special Subject for Third-Years on ‘The French Revolution, 1789-1804’. I am always happy to recommend reading to prospective students.

I also contribute to team-taught undergraduate and postgraduate modules, including: Introduction to Modern History, 1789-1918; The age of extremes, 1918-2001; The History of Human Rights; and Nationalism and Violence.

I am the proud holder of the UEA Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Practice (2016) and am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). I have twice been shortlisted in the ‘Most Inspiring Teaching’ category of the Student Union’s Transforming Education Awards.

Administrative Posts

  • Co-convenor of the Staff Student Liasion Committee
  • Convenor for 'The age of extremes: Europe, 1918-2001' and, in 2023-24, for 'Introduction to Modern History, 1789-1918'
  • Employability Directory

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge

Award Date: 20 Apr 2009

Bachelor of Arts, University of Cambridge

Award Date: 1 Jan 2002