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Laurie Stoff

This article discusses the experiences of Russian nurses in World War I. An examination of Russia's sisters of mercy—as Russian nurses prior to 1918 were called—in World War I reveals the significance of women's medical service and exposes the fallacy of the notion of war as a distinctly male experience. Russian women's wartime nursing experiences share many of the features of the male war experience. Although conventional wisdom draws lines of demarcation between the active killing and dying of combat and the passive nurturance and support of nursing, in reality, Russian women's wartime medical service blurred such separations. In many ways, the narratives of female medical personnel mirror those of male combat personnel. The nurses who served in Russia during World War I indicate clearly the variety of ways that women intersected with and were affected by the war and the inadequacies of gendered notions of wartime experience.

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Carl Strikwerda

World War I is the most important single event in the history of globalization. The war ended the first significant era of increasing economic ties among nations and thereby shaped the economic history of the twentieth century. The war set off both a search for ways to re-create the prewar liberal world economy and attempts to create statist alternatives to it. The collapse of interbank cooperation and expansion of controls on trade, migration, and agriculture meant that economic globalization re-emerged only very slowly over the rest of the twentieth century. Indeed, the long-term effects of World War I lasted until the 1990s. The lesson of this story for the twenty-first century is to check the dangers inherent in a multipolar world, where globalization produces both economic growth and social tensions.

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The War of Legs

Transport and Infrastructure in the East African Campaign of World War I

Michael Pesek

This article describes the little-known history of military labor and transport during the East African campaign of World War I. Based on sources from German, Belgian, and British archives and publications, it considers the issue of military transport and supply in the thick of war. Traditional histories of World War I tend to be those of battles, but what follows is a history of roads and footpaths. More than a million Africans served as porters for the troops. Many paid with their lives. The organization of military labor was a huge task for the colonial and military bureaucracies for which they were hardly prepared. However, the need to organize military transport eventually initiated a process of modernization of the colonial state in the Belgian Congo and British East Africa. This process was not without backlash or failure. The Germans lost their well-developed military transport infrastructure during the Allied offensive of 1916. The British and Belgians went to war with the question of transport unresolved. They were unable to recruit enough Africans for military labor, a situation made worse by failures in the supplies by porters of food and medical care. One of the main factors that contributed to the success of German forces was the Allies' failure in the “war of legs.”

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Elif Mahir Metinsoy

Ordinary women are among the least known subjects of Ottoman Turkish historiography. One of the most important reasons for this lack of information is that the Turkish archives are not organized in such a way that researchers can easily access documents on ordinary women. However, the difficulty in finding women’s voices in historical documents is only one part of the problem. Whereas conventional Ottoman-Turkish historiography prioritizes the acts of those holding power, most Turkish feminist historiography focuses on the organized activities of elite and middle-class women rather than ordinary women due to various paradigmatic and methodological restrictions. This article explains these limitations and proposes less conventional methods for conducting research on ordinary Ottoman women, who were important actors on the home front during World War I. It discusses theoretical approaches, methodology, and alternative sources that can be used to conduct research on women in the Turkish archives. It also presents some examples of ordinary Ottoman women’s voices and everyday struggles against the violence they suffered during World War I, using new, alternative sources like women’s petitions and telegrams to the state bureaucracy as well as folk songs.

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Negotiating Intimacy in the Shadow of War (France, 1914-1920s)

New Perspectives in the Cultural History of World War I

Bruno Cabanes

Over the past twenty years, the cultural and social history of the Great War has undergone a profound revitalization and given rise to new areas of research, such as the history of the body and of violence, the relationships between the front lines and the home front, the “cultures of war,“ and religious feeling. At the heart of this approach is an interest in intimacy, or the private life of soldiers and their relationships with their loved ones, an area that has been explored thanks to a new focus on personal archives: letters, diaries, photographs. Taking wartime France as its example, this article analyzes the contributions of this new history of World War I and assesses its methodological issues. The Great War can thus be seen in its full measure, not only as the first conflict conducted on a global scale, but also as a true anthropological turning point, one that caused tremendous upheaval for those who lived through it: new kinds of violence on the battlefields, new mourning rituals, unfamiliar difficulties in reconnecting with private life in the aftermath of the war.

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“Be Prepared!” (But Not Too Prepared)

Scouting, Soldiering, and Boys’ Roles in World War I

Lucy Andrew

This article examines the shifting representation of the ideal of masculinity and boys’ role in securing the future of the British Empire in Robert Baden-Powell’s Boy Scout movement from its inauguration in 1908 to the early years of World War I. In particular, it focuses on early Scout literature’s response to anxieties about physical deterioration, exacerbated by the 1904 Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration. In Baden-Powell’s Scouting handbook, Scouting for Boys (1908), and in early editions of The Scout—the official magazine of the Scout movement—there was a strong emphasis on an idealized image of the male body, which implicitly prepared Boy Scouts for their future role as soldiers. The reality of war, however, forced Scouting literature to acknowledge the restrictions placed upon boys in wartime and to redefine the parameters of boys’ heroic role in defense of the empire accordingly.

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“Till I Have Done All That I Can”

An Auxiliary Nurse’s Memories of World War I

Michelle Moravec

The scrapbooks and wartime papers of American Alma A. Clarke reveal how one woman repurposed gendered propaganda during the Great War. Clarke was in France from January 1918 to July 1919 as both a child welfare worker with the Comité franco-américain pour la protection des enfants de la frontier and as an auxiliary nurse in the American Red Cross Military Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine. The Great War provided Clarke with new ways to contribute, new arenas in which to share her expertise, and perhaps most importantly, new perspectives on the significance of her contributions to society.

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Yves Pourcher

As seen from France, World War I was first and foremost a matter of transporting men who had to be brought en masse to the front. This article describes the first departures and analyzes the sentiments they elicited: sadness, resignation, fear. Men climbed into the trains and went off to war: these first voyages were followed by countless others that bore little resemblance to those of August 1914. Wounded, exhausted, discouraged, and occasionally rebellious, soldiers passed through the railway stations, which had become the heart and soul of the country. In the towns, fear spread as supplies began to be scarce and living conditions deteriorated. Life unfolded to the rhythm of the passing trains until, at the end and in the aftermath of the war, other train cars arrived bearing those who had died.

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Cécile Mathieu

*Article translated by Matthew Roy

This article explores French imaginaries of different human groups between the world wars through a study of the Larousse universel of 1922. Dictionaries are generally assumed to be reliable tools for understanding language, reflecting a single, universally accepted, and neutral norm. In fact, as this article demonstrates, the Larousse universel of 1922 conveys an imaginary of otherness very specific to the time and place of its publication. Analyzing ethnonyms (names of peoples or ethnic groups) and demonyms or gentilics (names for residents or natives of a particular place) as well as the associated illustrations, I provide a typology of the dictionary’s treatment of the otherness of different peoples. Exoticism, colonization, war, and zoology emerge as the four themes around which human groups are concentrated. In particular, the predominance of the semantic feature warlike reveals the worry suggested by “the foreign” in the aftermath of World War I.

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Ruth Ginio

The article examines the ways in which French officers manipulated the image of the "savage and violent" African colonial soldier. While the background for the development of this image was the general European perception of Africa as a violent space, during World War I, officers, as well as parts of the French public, began to see Africans as "grown children" rather than savages. However, as this image served French military purposes and made the soldiers useful on the battlefields, it was not rejected outright. I look at the debate around recruiting Africans to serve in Europe on the eve of World War I, and the French attempts to refute the German accusations around the deployment of African soldiers in the Rhineland during the 1920s. Finally I examine how, thirty years later, during the Indochina War, African officers dealt with these conflicting images in reports about violent incidents in which African soldiers had been involved.