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 Sam Young

Sam Young

Research student,


I am a PhD student in the School of Modern Languages, where I am researching the role of social Catholic movement in the conflict between family and state in France during the interwar years. My work is funded by the AHRC South West & Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWW DTP2) and supervised by Prof. Hanna Diamond (Cardiff, MLANG) and Prof. Marion Demossier (Southampton). 

I studied for a BA (Joint Hons.) in History & French at the University of Nottingham between 2014 and 2018, during which time I spent a year working in Paris for Steele & Holt press agency and ESIEE engineering college. I later completed an MA in Modern History at the University of Sheffield, specialising in post-war French politics. I began my PhD at Cardiff in October 2019.

While at Cardiff, I have acted as General Editor of Question, the postgraduate journal of the SWW DTP (2019-21). I have also taught on the French module ML6187 'National and Global Perspectives on France' during the 2020-21 academic year. I am currently a postgraduate co-lead for the History & Heritage research theme within MLANG (2020-22). 


Research interests

My research interests cover several aspects of French history:

  • Social policy in France between 1870 and 1944, focusing particularly on the role of the family in French society

  • The French social Catholic movement, including Christian syndicalism and Catholic youth

  • Interactions between Catholicism and Communism in French politics 

I am also interested in broader questions relating to:

  • Links between state power and family policy

  • Labour relations and their link to family structures

  • Catholic Social Teaching and the theory of human dignity

  • Catholicism and 'degrowth' economics

  • Land use and housing provision


  • ML6187 'National and Global Perspectives on France' (Cardiff MLANG), 2020-21 


'The social Catholic movement and the role of the family in French republican society, 1919-1940'

My research explores the history of the social Catholic movement in the industrial regions of France during the period 1919-40. This movement comprised of various Catholic working-class associations – including trade unions, family support organisations and youth groups – that aimed to resolve the widespread socio-economic inequalities and class tensions that had developed during the industrialisation of France. The social Catholic solution to these issues rested heavily on reviving the importance of the traditional family unit in French culture, which they saw as a vital social tool for reintroducing ideas of human dignity and mutual respect into industrial capitalist society.

I place this history within the context of wider changes to the role of the family under France’s liberal republican system. Historians have previously argued that the period of the Third Republic (1870-1940) was marked by a decline in the social power of the traditional, patriarchal family in the face of an increasingly bureaucratic and centralised state. Fearful of the supposed moral decline of the French family over the late nineteenth century, republican legislators developed extensive state structures to police the behaviour of families and replace parental autonomy with state oversight. My thesis challenges this narrative by exploring the role of the social Catholic movement in the field of state-family relations during this period. Drawing on a mixture of primary source material and Catholic social theory, I explore the methods by which social Catholics attempted to promote the social unit of the traditional family in working-class society and consider how their activism contested – or even contributed to – the Republic’s gradual extension of state power over its citizens.

Funding source

AHRC South West & Wales Doctoral Training Partnership 2



Professor Hanna Diamond

Professor of French History