Géographies de la Première Guerre mondiale

 

Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 2016/1 (71e année). 336 pages.
ISSN : 0395-2649
ISSN en ligne : 1953-8146
ISBN : 9782713225116

Compagnon Olivier, Purseigle Pierre, « Géographies de la mobilisation et territoires de la belligérance durant la Première Guerre mondiale »

Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 1/2016 (71e année) , p. 37-64
URL : www.cairn.info/revue-annales-2016-1-page-37.htm

Prenant acte du fait que l’histoire globale de la Première Guerre mondiale n’en est encore qu’à ses balbutiements, cet article propose de « déseuropéaniser » l’historiographie du conflit en dépassant la dialectique des « centres » et des « périphéries » et en combinant les échelles spatiales de l’analyse. D’une part, il s’agit de déplacer le regard depuis les théâtres européens de la guerre vers des espaces communément considérés comme marginaux, mais dont l’éloignement de l’épicentre des combats n’empêcha pourtant pas qu’ils soient parcourus de tensions directement liées au conflit et qu’ils connaissent des mutations majeures entre 1914 et 1918. D’autre part, il convient également de placer la focale sur des objets de recherche tels que l’environnement, les ressources naturelles ou les diasporas, qui se prêtent particulièrement bien à des approches émancipées des cadres nationaux de la réflexion et permettent de restituer l’impact global de la Grande Guerre. De cette double démarche émergent ainsi les bases d’une nouvelle géographie des mobilisations et de la belligérance entre 1914 et 1918, susceptible de rendre compte du caractère authentiquement mondial que revêtit la Première Guerre mondiale et de la diversité des expériences vécues du conflit.

Geographies of Mobilization and Territories of Belligerence during the First World War
The global history of the First World War is still in its early stages. This article proposes to contribute to its development by “de-Europeanizing” the historiography of the conflict and suggesting some of the ways scholars can move beyond “centers” and “peripheries” to combine different spatial scales of analysis. First, it demonstrates the need to look beyond the European theatres of war and investigate battlefields hitherto deemed to be marginal: distance from—or the absence of—combat did not prevent the manifold impact and legacy of the war from being felt in many regions of the world. Second, it invites scholars to focus on elements such as the environment, natural resources, or diasporas, which make it possible to break out of a national framework of analysis and to do justice to the global impact of the Great War. This twofold approach underlines the value of a new geography of mobilization and belligerence that matches the diversity of experiences and the truly global dimensions of the First World War.

Keller Tait, « Aux marges écologiques de la belligérance. Vers une histoire environnementale globale de la Première Guerre mondiale»

Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 1/2016 (71e année) , p. 65-86
URL : www.cairn.info/revue-annales-2016-1-page-65.htm

Cet article est une première exploration de l’histoire environnementale de la Première Guerre mondiale et suggère de nouvelles approches susceptibles de modifier notre compréhension du conflit. Bien que les terres agricoles ravagées, les arbres calcinés et les bourbiers soient des images iconiques de la Première Guerre mondiale, les chercheurs ont souvent eu tendance à négliger la place et le rôle de la nature dans le conflit. Pourtant, ce n’est qu’en prenant en compte l’environnement que nous pouvons pleinement comprendre le traumatisme de la guerre et appréhender la façon dont ce conflit, en particulier, a façonné de manière durable les dimensions les plus élémentaires de l’existence humaine. Les armées de la Première Guerre mondiale étaient des entités à la fois sociales et biologiques qui dépendaient d’une « écologie militaire » de l’extraction, de la production et de l’approvisionnement en vivres et en énergie. Pour nourrir les soldats et faire fonctionner les machines, les États belligérants réquisitionnèrent de la nourriture et du carburant dans l’ensemble de la biosphère, contribuant ainsi à étendre la portée écologique de la guerre bien au-delà du front de l’Ouest. L’étude des différentes façons dont la guerre a transformé la périphérie (modification de l’écologie des maladies en Afrique coloniale, extraction de l’étain en Asie du Sud-Est et production alimentaire en Amérique latine) permet de montrer que les frontières de la belligérance étaient très étendues. Ces trois régions illustrent également les différentes façons dont la préparation et la conduite du conflit ont modifié les sociétés et le milieu naturel. Se pencher sur Première Guerre mondiale en adoptant une perspective environnementale permet de mettre en lumière sa dimension planétaire. La « catastrophe fondatrice » du xxe siècle, pour reprendre l’expression de George Kennan, a accéléré des changements environnementaux amorcés au siècle précédent et fait apparaître certaines tendances – production militaro-industrielle, persécutions et exploitation de l’environnement – qui définiront le xxe siècle.

The Ecological Edges of Belligerency
Toward a Global Environmental History of the First World War
This article represents an initial foray into the global environmental history of the First World War and suggests new approaches that can change our understanding of the conflict. With ravaged farmlands, charred trees, and muddy quagmires as iconic images of the First World War, scholars have generally tended to overlook the place and role of nature. Yet only by taking the environment into account can we fully understand the trauma of war and how this conflict in particular shaped the most basic levels of human existence for years to come. Armies in the First World War were both social and biological entities, which depended on a “military ecology” of energy extraction, production, and supply. To keep soldiers and machines in action, belligerent states commandeered food and fuel throughout the biosphere, extending the war’s environmental reach far beyond the western front. Examining a number of the ways that war shaped the periphery—evolving disease ecologies in colonial Africa, tin extraction in Southeast Asia, and food production in Latin America—will show that the boundaries of belligerency were vast. These three regions also illustrate the different ways in which the preparation and pursuit of war transformed societies and the natural world. Seeing what George Kennan called the twentieth century’s “seminal catastrophe” from an environmental perspective illuminates the global dimensions of the First World War. The conflict accelerated environmental change that had begun in the previous century, and established the patterns of military-industrial production, human victimization, and environmental exploitation that defined the twentieth century.

Satia Priya, « Centralité des marges. Les campagnes britanniques au Moyen-Orient pendant la Grande Guerre»

Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 1/2016 (71e année) , p. 87-126
URL : www.cairn.info/revue-annales-2016-1-page-87.htm

L’auteure soutient dans cet article que l’impact culturel de la Première Guerre mondiale en Grande-Bretagne ne peut être compris que si l’on donne aux campagnes du Moyen-Orient la place centrale qui est la leur. Il montre qu’un des effets généralement attribués au front de l’Ouest – une totale perte de foi dans la technique et dans l’héroïsme individuel – a été compensé, à bien des égards, par les leçons tirées de la guerre en Palestine et en Mésopotamie, où cette même foi a connu chez les Britanniques un formidable regain. Si l’on prend en compte cet héritage culturel, on comprend mieux pourquoi ce peuple est resté engagé dans la guerre et a continué de croire dans le développement industriel et la guerre impérialiste une fois le conflit mondial terminé. L’aura héroïque de Thomas Edward Lawrence (Lawrence d’Arabie) et l’image du développement des infrastructures entrepris par l’armée britannique en Mésopotamie ont en effet donné un nouvel essor à la foi dans la technique et dans l’empire, tandis que le front de l’Ouest en révélait un visage autrement plus terrible. Le texte s’ouvre sur l’étude des tactiques militaires originales que les Britanniques, influencés par une vision singulière d’une « Arabie » largement imaginaire, ont adoptées à un degré sans précédent dans la région : la ruse, la guerre irrégulière et la force aérienne. L’auteur montre ensuite comment le gouvernement, à mesure que les succès se multipliaient, s’est efforcé de capitaliser sur la propagande entourant ces « théâtres secondaires » de guerre. Il s’agissait notamment de mettre en avant l’idée que l’empire trouverait une rédemption dans la restauration de l’antique « berceau de la civilisation », entretenant ainsi des notions d’un idéalisme achevé, quand, sur le front de l’Ouest, un nouveau type de cynisme faisait rage.

Side-Shows at the Center
The Middle Eastern British Campaigns of the Great War
This article places campaigns in the Middle East at the heart of the effort to understand the First World War’s cultural impact in Britain. By doing so, it shows that the effects typically attributed to the western front—loss of faith in technology and heroism—were mediated in important ways by lessons emerging from the Middle Eastern fronts in Palestine and Mesopotamia, where the British found their faith in technology strengthened. By incorporating that cultural legacy, we can better understand why Britons remained committed to the war and why they maintained their faith in industrial development and warfare empire after the war had ended. The heroic image of T. E. Lawrence and of the infrastructural development undertaken by the British military in Mesopotamia together bolstered faith in technology and imperialism just when the western front was revealing their darker side. The article begins with a study of the unique military tactics the British adopted in the region, shaped by particular cultural notions about “Arabia”: deception, irregular warfare, and airpower were used to an unprecedented degree in these campaigns. It goes on to show how the British government strove to capitalize on the propaganda effects of these “sideshows” as they became successful. In particular, they stressed the notion that the empire could find redemption in the restoration of the ancient “cradle of civilization.” Such ideas sustained idealistic notions even as the western front unleashed a new kind of cynicism.

 

A poppy is cheap; remembrance and solidarity are not

The wreaths now lie silently by war memorials across the country. The crowds have walked away and most will not return for at least another year. Then, as tradition demands, poppies will once again take pride of place on many lapels. And once again, the right-wing press and inconsequential politicians will manufacture an idiotic controversy. Some celebrity will fall foul of the conformist norm impelling public figures to wear a poppy, irrespective of their views on war, veterans or the armed forces. Like Sienna Miller last week, lambasted for taking her poppy off seconds before going on air, another artist, journalist, broadcasters (delete as appropriate) will stand accused of ignoring the war dead, of insulting veterans and of betraying serving personnel.
What on earth does a poppy tell you about Sienna Miller’s politics?

Earlier in the week, David Cameron’s communications team had been ridiculed for photoshopping a poppy on the Prime Minister’s Facebook page. Shouldn’t they be more concerned about the impact of this Government’s policies on veterans and their families?
And then of course, sadly and predictably enough, reporters and lazy commentators then spent the best part of 48 hours trying to establish if Jeremy Corbyn had bowed enough, too much, or not at all before the Cenotaph on Sunday. In the meantime, none will have taken the opportunity to reflect, to help us all reflect, on the past, present and future significance of war remembrance. Whatever the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and Sir Gerald Howarth MP may claim, they all conspired to turn Remembrance Sunday into a sorry farce.

I don’t wear a poppy. I respect those who do and I know and appreciate the essential work that charities like the British Legion do all year around. Now of course, I am a left-wing academic and not even British; “typical EU migrant scum spitting on the graves of Britain’s squaddies” would no doubt eruct the Daily Express.

I am a professional historian and I have devoted almost 20 years of my life to study and understand the First World War. The “seminal catastrophe” (G. Kennan) that ushered in the twentieth century and its woeful litany of wars, genocides, population displacements and destructions. So I will take no lesson in remembrance from right-wing chauvinists and semi-literate hacks who fake outrage every November. I think and I write about war every day. I teach its history to undergraduates and discuss its legacy with a dozens if not hundreds of people every year. In our classrooms, lecture theatres, and museums; on social media, on TV and radio, historians like me, along with teachers and curators spend a tremendous amount of time and energy helping our fellow citizens understand what war is; why and how it is fought; why military conflicts matter.
What would a poppy tell you that my work does not?

In the meantime, the unbearable imposition of patriotic conformity on all and sundry prevents us from addressing the critical questions that war remembrance raises. What does it mean to wage war? What does it mean for veterans, their families and for us, their fellow citizens? It is of course essential to affirm our respect and gratitude, but it isn’t enough. For do we truly realize what we ask of them when we send them on the field of battle? We obviously understand that we demand they put their lives and limbs at risk. But do we understand or even recognize that we also ask them to kill on our behalf; to violate what fortunately remains a taboo for most of us: the taking of human life.
The war dead, like veterans, are not simply victims of war. They are agents of warfare and perpetrators of violence. Highly-trained professionals today like volunteers and conscripts yesterday, soldiers kill and destroy on our behalf. So what if we just shut up about poppies for a minute and pause to consider the political and ethical implications of war?
Whether you believe that war is a legitimate instrument of policy or a criminal aberration does not matter. For we all share an overwhelming and rather shameful reluctance to confront the realities of war. Handing out white feathers or shouting “not in my name” does not really cut it in my view. These are rather easy positions to take and defend. But politics and indeed war are a much messier business. I don’t have any easy answer to offer and I struggle with these questions as much as anybody else. There is only so much that history can do for you.

For this is not only about ethics but about politics, in the full, grand sense of the term.
Thanks to the poppy, the British Legion will raise millions of pounds in support of veterans and their families. There is no doubt that their contribution is important; that the Legion’s workers and volunteers should be commended, as should indeed those who wear the poppy as a token of their financial commitment to the organization and its mission.
But shouldn’t we ask ourselves why charity remains, in 2015, a critical necessity? If the country is grateful to veterans and their family, shouldn’t they be fully supported by the nation they fought to protect? Why don’t we demand the Government translate its public commitment into actual and sustained solidarity? Why don’t the Sun, the Mail and the Express demand that taxes be raised so that the needs of veterans be met in full? Why should they have to rely on charity? Why don’t you guys put your money where your poppy is?

We know that the armed forces predominantly recruit among the working and lower-middle classes, from the very communities that the regressive policies of George Osborne and David Cameron have consistently undermined for over 5 years. We know that many returning veterans struggle to find employment; that many suffer from alcohol and drug abuse; that a significant number will be sleeping rough in the streets of Britain tonight. There is no quick and easy fix to the multitude of psychological, medical, and social problems that many veterans and their families still face today. Charity helps, but it is not enough. The state and the taxpayer must take their responsibility. It is all well and good to ask Premier League millionaires to wear a poppy every November. But why don’t we expect them or indeed other wealthy professionals and rentiers to pay more taxes to fund the national health service and colleges, job centers and universities?

There is more to remembrance than a poppy and we certainly owe more to veterans than occasional charity.

Observing the First World War, London, 3 Nov. 2015

Franco-British perspectives

on the History & Memory

of the Great War

3 November 2015

***

Organised by the Institut Français du Royaume-Uni in collaboration with British and French Universities

 

Organising committee: 

Ludivine Broch (Westminster), Alison Carrol (Brunel), James Connolly (Manchester), Emmanuelle Cronier (Université de Picardie), Pierre Purseigle (Warwick) and Catherine Robert (IFRU)

***

Welcome address by Catherine Robert (IFRU)

9.50am

INTRODUCTION

COMMEMORATING THE GREAT WAR. A RESEARCH AGENDA

10-10.30am

Speakers

Alison Carrol (Brunel)

Ludivine Broch (Westminster)

Pierre Purseigle (Warwick University)

Q&A 30 minutes

PANEL 1

COMMEMORATING THE FIRST WORLD WAR, 100 YEARS ON

10.30am-12pm

Chair: Emmanuelle Cronier (Université de Picardie, Amiens)

Panellists:

Catriona Pennell (Exeter University)

Claudia Siebrecht (Sussex University)

Q&A 30 minutes

LUNCH

12-1.15pm

PANEL 2

TECHNOLOGIES OF COMMEMORATION

1.15-2.45pm

Chair: James Connolly (University of Manchester)

Panellists:

Chris Kempshall (Sussex University)

Julien Lalu (Université de Poitiers)

Yoan Fanise (Ubisoft)

Q&A 30 minutes

COFFEE BREAK

2.45-3pm

PANEL 3

CURRENT RESEARCH ON THE FIRST WORLD WAR

3-4.30pm

Chair: Alison Carrol (Brunel University)

Panellists:

Anna Maguire (Kings College London)

Anne-Lise Prez (Paris I)

Jean-Philippe Miller Tremblay (EHESS)

Q&A 30 minutes

GENERAL DISCUSSION

COMPARATIVE AND CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE CENTENARY

4.30-5.30pm

COCKTAIL

5.30pm

Rebuilding European Lives. 1914-1939

Rebuilding European Lives. The reconstitution of urban communities in interwar France and Belgium (1914-1939).
Paper presented at the “Recreating historical cities after WWI” Conference, Kalisz (Poland), 16-17 April 2015

 

In July 1998, in Noyon, a medium-sized town in northern France, construction workers pulled down the decayed community hall and chopped down the acacias which had stood there since the 1920s in order to make room for a brand new leisure centre. The street sign was also taken down; until then, the plaque indicated:

“Place de Béziers, marraine de guerre de Noyon”
(« Béziers square, to the war god-mother of Noyon »)

This was the last testimony of the particular bond that used to tie Noyon and the town of Béziers, in southern France, that in March 1920 had decided to “adopt” her in a spectacular move designed to state its commitment to the recovery of a town which had been entirely destroyed after the German invasion of 1914. In that way, the “ville-marraine” had pledged its financial aid towards the recovery of the town and to foster the link between the two towns by organizing charity fêtes and civic rituals.
The acacias were not replanted and the plaque never put back in place. 80 years after the Armistice of 1918, the memory of a distinctive feature of the post-WWI reconstruction had faded away as collective memory and historiography seem to collude in oversight.

At the end of 1920, the President of the French Republic awarded its highest distinction, the Legion of Honour, to J.P. Morgan, Jr., senior partner of the American finance company, J.P. Morgan & Co., in recognition of services performed for the French government during the First World War. Indeed, the importance of J.P. Morgan & Co that was regarded as the main commercial and financial agent of France and Britain in America has for long been acknowledged by contemporaries and historians alike. They have stressed the major role played by the New York firm in the funding of the war effort and economic reconstruction which followed the Great War. In the very same year, the American Committee for Devastated France, founded and chaired by Anne Morgan, the sister of J.P. Morgan, Jr., received the Gold Medal of French Reconnaissance for the work being done in favour of the ruined areas of northern France. This work had previously won her the Croix de Guerre in 1918. In 1932 Morgan even became the first American woman to be appointed a Commander of the Legion of Honour.

The fact that the latter distinctions and the work done by Anne Morgan, is usually passed over in silence in the historiography of reconstruction betrays how exclusive an emphasis has been put on the financial and economic dimension of the post-WWI recovery of the devastated areas in Belgium and France. However important, this traditional focus on the responsibilities assumed by the Allied states and financial institutions has actually led scholars to overlook the significant role played by a host of initiatives and organizations which, originating in the civil societies of the Allied nations and prompted by infra-national, imperial and international solidarities, lent its distinctive features to the post-WWI reconstruction of western Europe.

Relatively neglected the social history of the reconstruction of France has not been wholly ignored of course. While the French countryside and its agriculture have been meticulously researched, the reconstruction of urban communities has mainly been studied from a local perspective, thanks to the efforts of local historians, archivists and museums intent on preserving the memory of a key episode in the modern history of their regions. Likewise, Anne Morgan’s contribution might indeed have been forgotten without the efforts of local historians and of the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City. Historians are also dependent on the efforts of other social scientists who, from the fields of geography, architecture, urban planning or heritage studies, have studied the urban reconstruction from their own, often technical and professional, perspective. Tellingly, the few historians to have published on the matter have done so in other disciplines’ journals. There remain, therefore, significant gaps in our knowledge that this project proposes to address.

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