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Re-thinking Antimilitarism

France 1898-1914

Elizabeth Propes

Conservative French nationalists had successfully labeled antimilitarism as antinationalist in the two decades preceding World War I. Because some of the more vocal antimilitarists were also involved in anarchist and radical Marxist organizations, historians largely have accepted this antinationalist label while also arguing that French nationalism had lost its connections to the French Revolution and become a more extremist, protofascist movement. A closer look at mainstream antimilitarist arguments, however, reveals the continued existence of the republican nationalism that had dominated the nineteenth century and shows that antimilitarists did not reject their nation. Instead, antimilitarists sought to protect the Republic, which they saw as synonymous with the nation, against an increasingly conservative, anti-Republic military and conservative nationalists, whom antimilitarists saw as a danger to a republican France.