Eric Jennings took his BA (1992) and MA (1993) at the University of Toronto before continuing to the University of California at Berkeley where he completed a dissertation (1998) with the late Susanna Barrows on the subject of relations between the French National government and its colonies during the Second World War. Upon completing his PhD, he came to the University of Toronto as an Assistant Professor. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2003 and Full Professor in 2009, and has served as Associate Chair for Graduate Studies in History (2005-08). He has been a Visiting Professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (2006) and a Visiting Fellow at St. Andrews University. He holds a cross appointment to the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (CERES) and has twice served as Interim Director of the Centre for the Study of France and the Francophone World (CEFMF). He is also a Fellow of Victoria College. In 2010 he was named a Chevalier dans I'ordre des Palmes academiques by the French government.
Eric Jennings is an innovative researcher and compelling writer, named a "top young historian" in 2008 by the History News Network. He has published four sole-authored monographs since 2001, one edited volume of essays, and 45 articles and book chapters. All of his monographs have appeared in both English and in French, and three of these books have won academic awards. Jennings' archival research in France, Madagascar, Martinique, Vietnam, and elsewhere has been funded by research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (1999-03, 2004-07, 2009-12, 2010-13) and the AMS/Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine (2001, 2003,2004, 2007-08) among others, and he has held research fellowships from the Jackman Humanities Institute (2010) and the John Simon Guggenheim foundation (2014).
Starting with his first award-winning monograph, Vichy in the Tropics: Petain's National Revolution in Madagascar, Guadeloupe and Indochina, 1940-1944 (2001, French edition 2004), Eric Jennings began to transform the ways that historians of modern France conceptualized the relationship between the French metropole and its colonies. Reviewers called this book "convincing and meticulously researched" as it "br[oke] new ground" in the study of Vichy France (American Historical Review 2002); they furthermore remarked on its importance not only in the field of the history of modern France, but also of the wider history of colonialisms. By these accounts, the book marked the emergence of an important new voice in the history of modern France.
His second book, Curing the Colonizers: Hydrotherapy, Climatology, and French Colonial Spas(2006, French edition 2011) addressed medical history with a study of French colonizers attempting to ensure their health in tropical climates by introducing metropolitan water cures. The French translation (which he did himself), won the 2012 Jean-Francois Coste Prize in the history of medicine from the Academic Nationale de Medecine, Par-is.
His third monograph looked more deeply at one of the colonial spa locations. Imperial Heights: Dalat and the Making and Undoing of French Indochina (2011, French edition 2013) examined a mountain resort created as a sanatorium for ailing French soldiers-a respite from the heat and tropical diseases that plagued the imperial goals of France, and an effort to create a "little France" in a colonial context. This "outstanding" and "fascinating" book, too, has been lauded for its meticulous research, accessible style, methodological richness and scholarly depth. As one reviewer noted, Eric Jennings draws on "analyses of architectural history, race theory, childhood studies, the history of medicine urban development, economics, decolonization, political history, and postcolonial subjects." (Journal of World History 2012).
A fourth monograph, released in 2014 as La France fibre Jut africaine(The African Resistance: Free French Africa in World War II, 2015) returns to an examination of the relationship between metropole and colony in the Second World War, but this time by looking at resistance rather than at the Vichy regime. These questions are all the more important in a context of increasing concern over the place of immigrants from these former colonies in contemporary France-by bringing attention to the many layers of relationships that have existed between colonies and colonizers, Eric Jennings helps us understand how those relationships have been transformed by a reversed migration.
Jennings has also taken a leading role in promoting public history in the broader French world. He has served as a historical consultant on historical films such as "Madagascar 1947" and "Rose et le soldat", has appeared as an expert on documentaries on the French empire during the Second World War, and given public lectures on his research to audiences in many of those parts of the former French colonial empire who were most affected by the events and developments he has studied.
Jennings' range, depth, and productivity in research, and his internationally-acknowledged position at the leading edge of a new and important area of modern historical studies mark him as an exceptional intellectual leader.