Mobilization, Sacrifice, Citizenship, 1900-1918

This book was published in Paris by Editions Les Belles Lettres in 2013.

It offers a comparative history of social mobilization in France and Britain during the First World War. It suggests a shift in the scale of analysis of belligerent societies in 1914-18, at once beyond and below national boundaries, with heuristic implications which benefit the social history of the Great War. Whilst the historiography to date has mainly confined itself to the study of individual nation-states at war, it demonstrates the profit one can derive from a comparative study of two medium-sized towns in England and France between 1914 and 1918. This research lies at the crossroad between two historiographical perspectives, which respectively scrutinize the process of national mobilization in Europe and the experience of cities at war. Both perspectives share a determination to uncover the material and mental foundations of the belligerent societies’ adaptation to the war experience. Since this study aims to understand the logic and configuration of social responses to the conflict, it examines both the local commitment to national mobilization and the mental imagery which allowed the transcendence of the war experience. In stressing the importance of small-scale patterns of collective action, this research firstly reveals the strength of locally rooted modes of figuration and organization. It demonstrates the ways in which the shortcomings and successes of wartime social mobilization betray both the inherent strength and the persistent internal strains in British and French societies. Secondly, it explores the centrality of the social relations of sacrifice and the critical emergence of an ethics of mobilization. The book then investigates the wartime reconfigurations of citizenship and its focus on local civil society eventually suggests a redefinition of the contours of the French and British states in 1914-1918. Ultimately, this research enables us to set the urban experience of the Great War within the larger context of the nationalization of the masses, and to further our understanding of the complex relationship between the state and civil society in wartime Europe.


The following document includes pre-print and secured versions of the book’s introduction, conclusion and table of contents.

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