Workshop: Global warfare, peace-making, and the travails of liberalism, 1914-1920

Friday, 20 October 2017
University of Warwick, Institute of Advanced Studies
10am – 1pm.

Empires and Occupations: Global Dynamics of the Illiberal Wartime State, 1914-1918

Prof. John Horne (TCD/Oxford)

Nineteenth century liberalism rode high on the eve of World War One. Mass politics, militarization, trade protection and state intervention signalled the strains it faced, but few predicted that the tide had turned on a model based on ideals of personal freedom, the rule of law and self-regulation (economic and other). That the war undermined the liberal order has long been recognized in national histories. This paper, however, will suggest that a reciprocal global dynamic was at work whereby wartime states sought illiberal solutions in order to wage ‘total war’ not only at home but also, and even more so, in external zones of dominance where they were easier to apply. These consisted of captive populations within Europe and colonial populations outside. Exploiting colonies was a well-established practice of even the most ‘liberal’ empires. Treating areas of Europe like colonies was not, except on the more remote peripheries of the Caucasus or (on some readings) in Ireland. The paper will consider the links between these two forms of exploitation during the war as well as the comparisons between them. It will comment briefly on the different legacies that they left in the post-war period. The argument will be general but the empirical focus will be on colonial French North Africa and German-occupied France and Belgium.


John Horne is currently Leverhulme Visiting Professor of History at Oxford University. He is emeritus Fellow of Trinity College Dublin, where he was Professor of Modern European History until 2015, and the founder of the Centre for War Studies in 2007. A Member of the Royal Irish Academy, he is also on the Executive Board of the Historial de la Grande Guerre, Péronne. Of British-Australian parentage and upbringing, he did his undergraduate studies at the University of Adelaide and then at Balliol College, Oxford, before taking his D. Phil. at the University of Sussex. He went to work in Trinity College Dublin at the end of the 1970s. He has held visiting posts at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Study, Germany, and Balliol College, Oxford. He has written extensively on modern France and the transnational history of the Great War. Among his books are: (with Alan Kramer), German Atrocities, 1914. A History of Denial (New Haven, Yale, 2001), translated into German (2003) and French (2005); (ed.) A Companion to World War One (Oxford, Blackwell-Wiley, 2010); (ed.) Vers la guerre totale: le tournant de 1914-1915 (Paris, Tallandier, 2010); and with Robert Gerwarth, War in Peace: Paramilitary Violence in Europe after the Great War (Oxford University Press, 2012). He is working currently on a history of the French experiences of the Great War.


The Sovereignty of Justice: The Germans at Versailles, May-June 1920

Prof. Leonard Smith (Oberlin College)


Fully realizing a “just peace” at the Paris Peace Conference meant redefining the role of “justice” in the international system. The Allied and Associated Powers originally took two approaches to defining “justice,” one a compensatory approach rooted in civil law, the other a “responsibilities” approach rooted in criminal law. The two approaches inevitably became muddled as the conference proceeded. In the end, and for very different reasons, the Germans as well as the allies cooperated in the construction of Germany as a criminalized once-and-future Great Power.


Leonard V. Smith is Frederick B. Artz Professor of History of Oberlin College. Educated at Oberlin College and Columbia University, he is the author of: The Embattled Self: French Soldiers’ Testimony of the Great War (Cornell University Press, 2007); France and the Great War, 1914-1918 (with Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau and Annette Becker, Cambridge University Press, 2003); and Between Mutiny and Obedience: The Case of the French Fifth Infantry Division During World War I (Princeton University Press, 1994). He also coedited France at War: Vichy and the Historians (Berg, 2000, French edition 2004). He has held fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Humanities Center. Smith has been a visiting professor at the Mershon Center, Ohio State University (spring 2015); École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (January 2012), Claremont McKenna College (fall 2008, as William F. Podlich Distinguished Fellow), and the Associated Kyoto Program at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan (fall 2004). Smith’s current monograph project, Sovereignty at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919: The ‘Laboratory over a Vast Cemetery,’ is nearly complete, and will be published by Oxford University Press (Publisher’s website). His most recent publications include “Drawing Borders in the Middle East after the Great War: Political Geography and ‘Subject Peoples’,” First World War Studies (2016); and “France, the Great War, and the ‘Return to Experience’,” World War I Centennial Series, Journal of Modern History (2016).

Contact: Pierre Purseigle (

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