“Directly Relevant to Our Experience”, Dr. John Ambler, Political Science

I had a French teacher as an undergraduate who was absolutely wonderful, spoke beautiful French, and was low-key and very inspiring. I was planning to teach high school and needed two teaching subjects, so one of them was going to be history and the other was French as a result of her inspiration. I ended up going to France, spending the year at the University of Bordeaux. That was a turning point, that’s why most of my career I’ve spent working on France, on various series of topics that involve oftentimes comparative research, so I could stay in France.

When I went to Bordeaux as a historian, my advisor said he had a couple of subjects on the 18th century that he would suggest I could work on, and I said, “Well, I’m really more interested in the 19th century, beginning of the 20th century.” And he said, “You mean political science. History ends with the French Revolution here.” That’s not altogether true, but I went on to become a political science student. That’s one of the major reasons why I got very much interested in political science, through my work in France, and stayed with it thinking it was a little more contemporary, a little more directly relevant to our experience today than some kinds of history are. And when I went to graduate school, it was just a natural. I knew I was interested in comparative politics, and France became a logical kind of choice for research.