Occupied France During WW1


As part of a series of posts showcasing recent publications by members of staff, below are three works that have appeared in various forms in the last few months by Dr James Connolly:

Fresh Eyes, Dead Topic?  Writing the History of the Occupation of Northern France in World War One,’ in Ludivine Broch and Alison Carrol (eds.), France in an Era of Global War, 1914-45: Occupation, Politics, Empire and Entanglements (London: Palgrave McMillan, [December] 2014), pp.31-49.

This chapter examines the historiography of the occupation of northern France in the First World War.  Beginning with the portrayal of the occupation during the war itself, it goes on to assess the tropes of the inter-war literature on this subject, before dealing with the recent revival of historical interest in this topic since the 1990s.  By examining British and especially French scholarly work in recent years, the chapter asks whether anything new can be written on this topic, concluding that there is still much to be done.  I then explain one possible approach – that which I adopted for my PhD and beyond, involving conceptual and analytical reflection based on the notion of an ‘occupied war culture.’  Finally, the chapter ends by pointing towards contemporaries and colleagues also approaching this topic from new angles, underlining that new approaches to this topic are still possible.

Mauvaise conduite: Complicity and Respectability in the Occupied Nord, 1914-1918,’ in Sophie de Schaepdrijver (ed.), Military Occupations in First World War Europe (London: Routledge, [November] 2014).

This chapter is a hard-back version of an article from 2013.  It examines the occupied war culture of the Nord in 1914–18, focusing on various forms of behaviour met with opprobrium and disdain by many among the occupied population. An argument is put forward for a new conceptual category to understand such actions and the wider culture – what is termed ‘mauvaise conduite’ or misconduct, in some senses a forerunner to the notion of collaboration. This concept covers actions which comprised both illegal and legal misconduct – behaviours that were forbidden by French law, and those which were permitted but frowned upon by fellow inhabitants. This conflation of different forms of misconduct – illegal and legal, sexual and non-sexual, friendly and political – was central to the culture of the occupied population, who occasionally expressed outrage at certain actions via physical and verbal attacks on suspect individuals. In doing so, they upheld a moral-patriotic framework based on the notion of respectability. Breaches of this framework were also punished by the French authorities after the war, but only on a small scale, and mauvaise conduite was eventually replaced in the memory of the occupation by the other aspect of the occupied war culture: resistance.

L’occupation du Nord de la France (1914-1918) vue par les Britanniques,’ Revue du Nord, 404-5:96 (January/June 2014), pp.133-156.

This article examines the way in which the British viewed and understood the occupation of northern France in the Great War, via the press (notably The Times), parliamentary debates, and government documents. It shows that the press and the government knew much about what was happening in the occupied zone. The British were concerned about the suffering experienced by these French and Belgians – often the two occupations were blurred – but they used this to put forward their case for war, seen as a battle of civilisation against German barbarism. Members of the occupied population were represented as patriotic, sometimes as resisters, and especially as victims – this latter was even more the case for the British in the occupied zone. Despite this interest, after and since the end of the war, the British soon forgot this occupation which had preoccupied them.

Editors Note: This is an archived blog post from 16-2-2015.



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