Cultures de Guerre in Picardy, 1917
In 1917 French and foreign agents reconstructed sections of Picardy destroyed by Operation Alberich, a “scorched-earth” program implemented by departing Germans. The region’s unanticipated maltreatment led French Third Army forces to evaluate and assist Picardy’s devastated homesteads and refugee-residents. Under General Georges Humbert, the Third Army implemented juxtaposing reconstruction policies in Picardy. Along with inhabitants, bureaucrats, and German prisoners of war, the Third Army initiated “a regime of temporary aid” that repaired property and provisioned civilians. Humbert’s subordinates also evacuated residents judged too ill, infirm, treacherous, or indolent for massive reconstruction projects. When extemporized statist programs proved insufficient for Picardy’s civilians, French ministries invited American and British humanitarians to inaugurate complementary and supplementary rehabilitation schemes designed to revive rural society and commerce. The conflicting confluence of these individuals’ consensual, coercive, patriotic, and philanthropic cultures de guerre within Picardy helped residents “demobilize” as refugees and “remobilize” for continued participation in World War I.
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