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The Visible Woman

Interwar Romanian Women's Writing, Modernity and the Gendered Public/Private Divide

Voichiţa Năchescu

In this article I analyse four novels by four Romanian women writers in order to bring into focus their perspectives on interwar gender roles, urbanisation and modernisation. First, I discuss the concept of 'feminine literature', largely used by (predominantly male) Romanian literary critics to describe literary works by women, as a description of normative femininity rather than an aesthetic category. Second, I argue that through their literary works, Romanian women writers effectively criticised interwar gender roles, more precisely the divide between public masculinity and private femininity, the constraints of women's sexual agency, and the heterosexual romance. Last, I analyse four novels published (mainly) during the interwar period by the Romanian women writers Hortensia Papadat Bengescu (1876-1955), Henriette Yvonne Stahl (1900-1984), Ioana Postelnicu (1910-2004) and Anişoara Odeanu (1912-1972), focussing on the female characters' presence and visibility in the urban public space and on the dynamics of the gaze that polices their behaviour.

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The Emergence of the Bus Industry

Dutch Transport Policy during the Interwar Years

Ruud Filarski

During the interwar period, the emergence of the bus industry presented many governments with a dilemma: should they intervene in the market to establish a level playing field for fair competition between the buses and rail transport, should they protect the loss-making railways or should they take a laissez-faire approach to the developments?

At first glance, promoting fair competition or, as it was called during those days, a "co-ordination policy" seems relatively simple. The government could impose conditions on the bus industry, which regulated safety, quality, services, and allocation of the infrastructure costs in a similar way as the railways. However, an analysis of the developments in The Netherlands reveals a number of obstacles that complicated policy implementation.

Therefore, this article focuses on two questions: how did bus transport develop in The Netherlands? And what obstacles made it so difficult for the Dutch government to implement fair competition?

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Ambivalent Mobilities in the Pacific

“Savagery” and “Civilization” in the Australian Interwar Imaginary

Nicholas Halter

Australian travel writing of the interwar period expanded with the growth of tourism in the Pacific Islands and the development of publishing and literacy at home. This article focuses on how the Australian middlebrow imagination was shaped by the diverse travel accounts of Australian tourists, adventurers, executives, scientists, officials, and missionaries writing at this time. Many of their texts borrowed and blended multiple discourses, simultaneously promoting the islands as educational and exotic, and appealing to an Australian middlebrow readership. In this article I argue that not only was travel writing middlebrow in its content and style, but the islands themselves were a particularly middlebrow setting. This is evident in representations of the islander “savage” in the region of Melanesia, a prevalent theme in Australian travelogues. I argue that this middlebrow literature was characterized by ambivalent and often contradictory ideas about the civilized “self” and the savage “other.”

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Elite de Façade et Mirages de l’Independance

Les Petits Entrepreneurs Etrangers en France dans l’Entre-Deux-Guerres

Claire Zalc

In the literature, immigrant entrepreneurs are described as the élite of the best “integrated” immigrants. Histories of migrant communities all insist on the role of the entrepreneurs as the center of the community and the symbol of social success. In this paper, I will discuss the diverse social meaning attached to being an entrepreneur for an immigrant in Paris during the interwar period. In order to describe the social position of immigrant entrepreneurs, I worked on professional careers, based on the study of more than two hundred applications for French nationality from foreign entrepreneurs during the first half of the twentieth century. It's hard to conclude that there is a one-way social mobility of entrepreneurs, either ascendant or descendent. While some went from the working class to owning a shop, eventually able to spend and save money, others became entrepreneurs as a necessity rather than choice.

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Modern Women in a Modern State

Public Discourse in Interwar Yugoslavia on the Status of Women in Turkey (1923–1939)

Anđelko Vlašić

After the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, Turkish women gained numerous political, social, and educational rights. Their rapidly improving status was a frequent topic in the public discourse of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (SHS)/Yugoslavia during the interwar years. One can find numerous comments in Yugoslav newspapers and journal articles, monographs, diaries, travel accounts, and other texts of the period on the contrast between the status of women in the “traditional,” “conservative,” theocratic Ottoman Empire and the status of women in the “modern,” “liberal,” secular Republic of Turkey. The Yugoslav media compared the status of Turkish women with the position of women’s rights in Yugoslavia. Through the analysis of interwar Yugoslav public discourse on the status of women in contemporary Turkey, this article aims to reveal the Yugoslav public’s perception of women’s issues through the prism of Turkey as Europe’s “Other” and their self-perception.

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Iterative Modernism

The Design Mode of Interwar Engineering in Belgium

Greet De Block and Bruno De Meulder

This article traces the implicit spatial project of Belgian engineers during the interwar period. By analyzing infrastructure planning and its inscribed spatial ideas as well as examining the hybrid modernity advocated by engineers and politicians, this article contributes to both urban and transport history.

Unlike colleagues in countries such as Germany, Italy and the United States, Belgian engineers were not convinced that highways offered a salutary new order to a nation traumatized by the First World War. On the contrary, the Ponts et Chaussées asserted that this new limited access road would tear apart the densely populated areas and the diverse regional identities in Belgium. In their opinion, only an integration of existing and new infrastructure could harmonize the historically fragmented and urbanized territory. Tirelessly, engineers produced infrastructure plans, strategically interweaving different transport systems, which had to result in an overall transformation of the territory to facilitate modern production and export logics.

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The French Quest for the Silent Car Body

Technology, Comfort, and Distinction in the Interwar Period

Stefan Krebs

Following Germany's resounding defeat in the First World War, the loss of its status as a colonial power, and the series of severe political and economic upheavals during the interwar years, travel abroad by motor vehicle was one way that Germans sought to renegotiate their place in the world. One important question critical studies of mobility should ask is if technologies of mobility contributed to the construction of cultural inequality, and if so in which ways? Although Germans were not alone in using technology to shore up notions of cultural superiority, the adventure narratives of interwar German motorists, both male and female, expressed aspirations for renewed German power on the global stage, based, in part, on the claimed superiority of German motor vehicle technology.

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Adventurers and Agents Provocateurs

A German Woman Traveling through French West Africa in the Shadow of War

Jennifer Anne Boittin

When Dr. Rosie Gräfenberg traveled to French West Africa in 1929, she set the French security and intelligence service on high alert. Rumors preceding her arrival suggested she might be a Russian agent, a communist agitator, and a German spy, among other things. She, however, presented herself as a German journalist. This article contrasts Gräfenberg's autobiography and newspaper articles with French police archives to consider why the stories surrounding her life diverged so greatly and what variations in detail, fact, and tone reveal about how Franco-German relations influenced considerations of race, nation, gender, and sexuality in the French Empire. In part because her trajectory was so outlandish, Gräfenberg's writings help us to consider the influence of World War I upon interwar colonial politics, procedures, and presumptions.

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Introduction

The Return of Transport Coordination

Gustav Sjöblom

The coordination of transport was heavily debated in the interwar period, as mechanized road traffic for the first time posed a serious challenge to the railways as the backbone of the transport system. The main issues of the interwar period bear resemblances with current challenges for transport policy, and historical studies may improve our understanding of contemporary transport coordination. This introduction sets the stage by discussing the concept of transport coordination and its historiography.

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Justinas Dementavičius

This article deals with the question of the conceptualization of state (Lith. valstybe) in twentieth-century Lithuanian political thought and its reflections in Sąjūdis, the Lithuanian independence movement, during the years 1988-1990. It is a commonly accepted myth that Sąjūdis restored the language of Lithuania's interwar period and thus the nation-centered, nationalistic paradigm of that period. A closer look at the political discourse of the interwar period suggests that it is misleading to talk about this kind of restitution. Furthermore, considering the fact that it is important to take into account the Soviet paradigms of the state that influenced Lithuanian political discourse for fifty years, the article finds arguments for speaking about a continuation of Soviet political discourse. Thus, along with restitution, it is possible to find continuities while conceptualizing state in Sąjūdis. While analyzing the meaning and semantic fields of those concepts, it is possible to draw arguments about the real nature of the political transformation of Soviet Lithuania.