Nicole Dombrowski-Risser, Ph.D.



Contact Info

LA 4218
On Sabbatical Spring 2024


Ph.D., New York University, 1995

Areas of Expertise

France and Europe, 1789-present, esp. 20th century; history of women and the family; gender and war; rural history


Nicole Dombrowski Risser has published two books, France under Fire: German Invasion, Civilian Flight and Family Survival during World War II (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and Women and War in the 20th Century: Enlisted with or Without Consent (Routledge, 1999, 2004). She has also published a number of scholarly articles, book reviews and editorials featured in The Washington Post and the Towson Times.

Dombrowski Risser’s research and teaching interests center around European society’s responses to political, economic, social and environmental disintegration. Her first two books examine closely the way gender, race and class shape refugees’ survival opportunities and rights claims in the contexts of World War I & II. Her current book-length research project, “A French Family Farm:  Two Hundred Years of Survival against War, Weather and Market Change on an Olive Farm in Provence,” records the story of agricultural innovation, family enterprise, state assistance and commercial ingenuity of a farm located in a fruit-growing community in southern France. Across a two-hundred-year timeframe, war, economic collapse and climate change have thrown obstacles in the path of individual, small-holder farmers’ efforts to survive and pass down their property from one generation to the next. “A French Family Farm” analyzes how creative responses to shifting gender roles, changing market structures and unstable weather systems have allowed the Bres farm and the community of Nyons to survive and thrive in the face of historical change.

At Towson University Professor Dombrowski Risser advises the Phi Alpha Theta history student honor society. She is the Faculty Fellow to the Tiger Women’s Lacrosse Team since 2015. She steers the College of Liberal Arts planning committee for the centennial commemoration of World War I, Battlefields and Homefronts: World War I and Modern Life. She continues to coordinate archival activities and course creation with the Paul Gantt Nuremberg Papers Digital Archive Collection at Cook Library. The Gantt Collection archives the Nuremberg Trial papers of the Industrial War Crimes Trials which took place under U.S. and British leadership from 1945 to 1949.

Dombrowski Risser routinely teaches two courses on Modern France. Every fall she offers HIST 431 France from 1763 to 1871 and in the spring HIST 432 France 1871 to the Present. She is offering HIST 300, a historical research and writing seminar on World War I, 1914-1918 throughout the commemoration period of 2014-2018. Each semester student research focuses on the period of the war exactly one-hundred-years earlier to the semester. (Fall 2016 studies Fall 1916).

Professor Dombrowski Risser’s new course initiative falls under the University Core Curriculum requirement 14, Ethics. HIST 205, History and Ethics: “War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity, Laws of War and International Law” explores the history of international awareness and action regarding crimes of war. The course begins with the first Hague Conferences and ends with the 1992 signing of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  HIST 205 is offered each spring.

Selected Publications:

France under Fire: German Invasion, Civilian Flight and Family Survival during World War II (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
Women and War in the Twentieth Century: Enlisted with or Without Consent, ed. (Routledge, 2004).
“The Search for Civilian Safe Spaces: Re-Evacuation of Le Havre, Calais and Dunkerque in Response to British Bombing, September to March, 1940-41.” France and Its Spaces of War. Eds., Patricia Lorcin and and Daniel Brewer. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010.
“The Exodus,” “The Battle of France,” “War Refugees,” “Occupied Zone,” “Repatriation,” in The Dictionary of Vichy France, ed., Bertram Gordon (New York: Greenwood Press, 1998).

Recent Lectures and Presentations

“Anti-Militarism and Pacifism---No Match for Fascism: The Great War’s Imprint on the French and German Literary Imagination.” Panel: Cultural Responses to the Great War: Performance, Pacifism, and Popular Images. Society for French Historical Studies. Los Angeles, CA. March 25, 2012.
“’Who is a non-combatant and how can we know?’ Writing the History of the Modern Complexities of Experience and Categorization of Non-Combatants in Comparative Global Historical Perspective, 1776-Present.” Panel: Blurred Lines: Civilians as Soldiers and Non-Combatants within the Armed Forces. Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation-Sponsored Civilians and Warfare in World History Conference. Florida Gulf Coast University. Fort Meyers, FL. February 23-25, 2012.
“Farming Sustainability Strategies in Turn-of-the-Century Provence.” Panel: Making it Work: Global Challenges to French Farming in the Long 20th Century. Western Society for French History. Portland, Oregon. November 12, 2011.
“Uncovering the History of War Crimes and Genocide using the Paul Gantt Collection,” Jewish Museum of Maryland and Baltimore County Public School’s Holocaust Education Summer Workshop, August 4, 2011.
“Writing the History of Human Rights Abuses from the Ground Up” Hofstra University, October 18, 2010
“Tony Judt: The Teaching and Practice of Social History: Socialism in Provence Reconsidered,”The Remarque Institute, Kandersteg Switzerland, 2010.

Recent Book Reviews:

“Review of Tammy M. Proctor, Civilians in a World at War, 1914-1918” The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 84. No. 1 (March 2012), pp. 166-167. Published by the University of Chicago Press.
“Review of John Cerullo, Minotaur: French Military Justice and the Aernoult-Rousset Affair,
DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2010. Pp. 298. $40.00 (ISBN 978-0-875-80433-0).” Law and History (August 2012), 13-14. Published by the Cambridge University Press.
Review: Daily Lives of Civilians in Wartime Twentieth-Century Europe. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008 by Nicholas Atkin.” History: Review of New Books, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Spring 2009): 104-105.
“Review: France during World War II: from Defeat to Liberation by Thomas R. Christofferson, and Michael S. Christofferson. New York: Fordham University Press, 2006.” H-France, Vol. 7 (June 2007), No. 74.
“Review: The Forgotten French: Exiles in the British Isles, 1940-44 by Nicholas Atkin.” H-FranceReview Vol. 5 (August 2005), No. 89.
“A Review of Joy Damousi’s Living With The Aftermath: Trauma, Nostalgia and Grief in Post-war Australia (Cambridge, 2003).” Journal of Social History (December, 2004).
“Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War By Tammy M. Proctor.”French Studies 59, no. 1 (2005): 119-120.
“Locating the Displaced: A Review of Jennifer Hyndman’s Managing Displacement: Refugees and the Politics of Humanitarianism.” Peace and Change: A Journal of Peace Research(January, 2003).
“Review of Antoinette Burton, Politics and Empire in Victorian Britain: A Reader. (New York: Palgrave, 2001).” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 3:1 (2002).
“Review of The Welfare State’s Other Crisis: Explaining the New Partnership between Nonprofit Organizations and the State in France by Claire F. Ullman.” International Labor and Working-Class History. No. 54 (Spring 2001).
“Wither the Working-Class? A Review of the 1996 French Historical Studies Conference,” International Labor and Working-Class History. No. 51 (Spring 1997)

Awards and Honors

Knight of the Order of the Black Olive, Nyons, France
Towson University Faculty Development Award
Franco-American Fellowship Grant
Andrew Mellon Faculty Summer Research Award
Princeton University Council of the Humanities and Social Sciences Summer Research Stipend
French Cultural Services Grant
NYU Prize Teaching Fellowship for distinction in teaching

Classroom Awards, Fall 2013

Victor Hugo Award for Outstanding Writing by an Undergraduate: Kenny Nealy for his essay on Black City and the Paris Commune.
The Michelet 19th-Century Historian's Award for Outstanding Final Exam: John Osborne and Joey Cane for perfect performance on a 200 point exam.
The Adolphe Thiers Award for Staying Power: Rachel Harmon
The Louis Pasteur Award for Genuine Curiosity in Scholarship: Andy Moynihan for writing two reflective papers on topics he had no initial interest in, yet explored each with genuine reflectiveness, questioning and skepticism to produce authentic historical analysis and commentary (Black City and Review of Linda Nochlin's work).


HIST 103: European Civilization from the 17th Century

HIST 300: Women and War in the 20th Century