Catriona Pennell

Catriona Pennell

Catriona Pennell is a Senior Lecturer in History at the Penryn Campus. She specializes in 19th- and 20th-century British and Irish history, with a focus on the First World War and British imperial activity in the Middle East. Catriona is a member of Exeter’s Centre for the Study of War, State and Society, as well as the Centre for Environmental Arts and Humanities, and the Centre for Imperial and Global History.

As someone who is very active in history outreach efforts, Catriona has shared her expertise in print, online, on the radio, and on television. In fact, Catriona says that her proudest professional achievement was a live interview on Channel 4 News outside Westminster Abbey on 4 August 2014. Politicians and dignitaries had gathered to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, and Catriona had been asked to comment on the proceedings. She said: “Despite an unruly earpiece that refused to stay still, I held my nerve and passed comment on the potential dangers of war commemoration—the sanitisation and romanticisation of war through official state ceremonies—and the irony of remembering the ‘war to end all wars’ while civilians in Gaza were being subjected to the horror of Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’…for a moment, I felt like I could be a radical voice for those not being heard.”

Justice, equality, and peace aren’t just concepts that Catriona investigates through her research, but also goals that she hopes we can achieve in the here and now. She says: “The society that I want my son to live in is one where everyone is equal—female or otherwise. The world is an inherently unequal place and that is damaging for us all. Equality and the empowerment of the oppressed is the only way we are going to achieve a more just, peaceful and secure future for all of us.”

Although Catriona says that she has interacted with a number of incredible female role models over the years, she is particularly grateful to Dr Francesca Burke, Lecturer in Politics at the University of Brighton. The two women have been friends for decades, and after all that time, Catriona says, “Francesca remains my moral compass and intellectual springboard. If I can exude half her spirit of kindness, generosity, humour, and intelligence then I’m doing well.”