English & French summaries of a keynote lecture I delivered on 25 June 2014 at the “América Latina y la Primera Guerra Mundial. Una history conectada” conference.
Please do not cite without permission.
Geographies of belligerence. Towards a global history of the First World War.
As we mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 2014, the global history of the conflict largely remains to be written. The historiography of the First World War still betrays the continuing dominance of national and Eurocentric perspectives. The conventional chronology of the war (1914-1918) is another heritage of conventional diplomatic and military history. Recent works have, however, stressed the necessity to place the First World War in a larger chronological framework (1911-1923); in a continuum of colonial conflicts, European wars, civil wars, revolutions, political violence and genocide.
Likewise concerned with the transformations of warfare, this lecture will outline the contours of a historical geography of the war that, it will suggest, could further our understanding of the totalizing and globalizing logic of the First World War.
The conventional geography of the war, inherited from operational history, reduces the war to belligerency and military operations. Shifting the emphasis to belligerence and the mobilization of resources in response to the war will allow us to redefine both the spaces and temporalities of war. This lecture will suggest some of the way in which one may locate the conflict and trace its gradual penetration within and beyond the belligerent empires, to include the experience of neutrals and colonial societies. Attentive to the varying intensity and spread of the conflict, to the global flows of manpower and material resources, as well as to the environmental and cultural impacts of the conflict, this approach may help us rethinking the experience of combat, mobilization, and reconstructions and remapping the Great War, 100 years on.