HomePrefects in the war (France / Europe 1914-1918)

HomePrefects in the war (France / Europe 1914-1918)

Prefects in the war (France / Europe 1914-1918)

Les préfets dans la première guerre mondiale (France / Europe, 1914-1918)

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Published on Monday, March 27, 2023


Le comité d’histoire de l’Institut des Hautes Études du Ministère de l’Intérieur (IHEMI) organisera son prochain colloque sur le thème « Les préfets dans la première guerre mondiale ». L’appel à contribution propose une analyse des pratiques et du travail des préfets et de leur administration pendant la première guerre mondiale ; des relations entretenues avec les autorités militaires, les élus locaux mais aussi les administrés ; des modalités suivant lesquelles les préfets ont vécu et ressenti le conflit. La perspective est ici de comprendre ce que la guerre fait à l’État en faisant le pari que l’observation à l’échelle locale permet de mieux saisir les formes plurielles de l’État en guerre ainsi que l’engagement des hauts fonctionnaires dans le conflit.



In the numerous works that have profoundly renewed the historiography of the Great War since the programmatic manifesto published in 1994 by Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau and Annette Becker[1], the State - understood here as “the set of agents and institutions that struggle and work for the concentration of organisational, material and symbolic resources allowing them to successfully claim the monopoly of legitimate physical and symbolic violence and to ensure the conditions of its reproduction”[2] - has been, let us say, the poor relation of a historiography largely dominated by a cultural approach to the Great War. However, the decentring carried out over the last few years by numerous researchers[3] has opened the way to a return to the place of the state in the war. Numerous studies have documented  its role in the “mises en guerre”[4] of European societies in order to understand how the state wages war (exploring the decisions taken, the strategies developed and the practices implemented in the context of a war whose long duration and intensity were not anticipated), but also what the war does to the state, in particular by questioning the way in which the conflict may have constituted a break or an acceleration in relation to the dynamics or trajectories that existed before : maximisation or exuberance of the central state, which became omnipotent and omnipresent; evolution and mutation of the “forms of government”[5]; intensification of population control and surveillance practices, but also multiplication of aid and relief; acceleration of the dynamics of nationalisation or stateisation of European societies, with in turn effects on the relationship of individuals or social groups to the state; transformation brought about by the conflict in the economy of rights and duties, which makes it possible to think about the relations between the latter and the citizens, who increasingly conceive of themselves as “entitled persons”[6]. In this historiography - including in the most recent works - the role of prefects and sub-prefects has been little discussed. If it could be mentioned, it has very rarely been the subject of a specific study[7]. Working on the political, administrative and legal roles of the representatives of the state leads us to distance ourselves from the vision of a state whose action in wartime was coordinated and “nationalized”. The relationship of local societies and 'small countries' to the war was very different depending on whether one was in territories at the heart of the conflict or much further away and peripheral. The view of departmental administrators in action therefore constitutes an interesting a priori point of view for observing the differentiated and plural forms of the state at war. Indeed, local situations were very diverse. Ten departments were occupied, one of which - the Ardennes - was completely occupied. Fighting was taking place in part of the territory, so that it was divided into two zones: that of the Armies and that of the interior, with different traffic regimes. Generally speaking, the war was far from being a homogeneous reality in the different departments: relations with the Republic remained difficult in some of them; the territories were more or less required and more or less willing to get involved; the effects of the conflict on the populations varied from one department to another. Under these conditions, it will be a question of examining the heterogeneity of practices, but also their inflection during the conflict.

Assessing the capacity of the state to strengthen itself or the effectiveness of the wartime measures means taking into account the successes but also the failures when the state, overwhelmed, does not manage to respond to all the demands. In the same way, considering that war increases the state's hold, just as much as it reveals or even extends the possibilities of resistance or adaptation of the economic system or of private individuals[8], the analysis of the resistance, contestations or conflicts that the action of the prefects arouses, as well as the compromises that they require, appears essential.

Finally, this international colloquium aims to provide a space for comparative reflection on the place and role of territorial representatives of the state in belligerent countries. The scientific and editorial enterprise initiated by Jay Winter a few years ago thus pleads for a resolutely transnational approach to the 14-18 period[9]. At the same time, the history of the prefectoral institution is currently undergoing a decompartmentalization that allows it to go beyond the sole national history of French prefects[10]. The comparison would allow us to better grasp the differentiated roles and structural homologies of this institution in sometimes opposed social, political and institutional universes. These reflections are thus developed around a series of questions: how do these servants of the state, mediators between the "centre" and the "peripheries" on the one hand, and between the top of the hierarchy of power and the population on the other, perceive their role and exercise their authority in the daily life of the conflict[11]? Beyond the differences in national contexts, is it possible to detect a community of situation and therefore possibly of practices and professional cultures between territorial administrators who are also placed halfway between the national and the local (municipalities) and who face certain common challenges, in particular the representation of the state, the organisation of the maintenance of order and the reminder or imposition of the unity of the political entity they serve? In short, what does it ultimately mean to administer a territory in a state at the heart of the war: with what goals, what competences and what means?

From these observations and reflections, we believe that there are five main areas of focus can be identified:

Focus Area 1 – The prefectoral administration and the animation of the war effort

Undersized in relation to the scale of the effort, the duration and intensity of which had not been anticipated, the prefectoral administrations were further weakened by the amputation of a large part of their staff. In Pas de Calais, out of the 88 agents that the prefecture had before the conflict, 51 were mobilised[12]. However, the workload increased, either as the traditional missions became heavier or as new war-related responsibilities appeared. The activity of the state's representatives and prefectoral personnel then became particularly intense. It was deployed around multiple levers: maintaining public order by ensuring the surveillance of the territory and of individuals; supporting economic mobilisation in the service of the war; protecting and helping populations in need, including refugees and war victims; supplying the populations but also regulating economic life (rationing, price fixing, moratorium on debts, etc.)[13]. It is therefore a question of understanding the functioning and practices of an administration struggling with strong constraints, by restoring the choices made, but also by exploring the transformations induced at the local level: the multiplication of temporary bodies - committees, consultative commissions, various offices - which were increasingly numerous, but also the recruitment of new personnel, many of whom were auxiliaries[14]. The newly created organizations included notables, but also representatives of intermediary bodies (trade unions, chambers of commerce, etc.) who had to be involved[15]. In the same way, the administration of aid - taking care of the wounded, helping the destitute or welcoming refugees - required the use of volunteers. The prefect has to make choices (for example, within a department, in a situation of shortage, favouring large towns over small ones) which can be clarified by studying prefectoral decrees. What room for manoeuvre did the prefects have? To what extent can the individual actions of great prefects be highlighted by the historian? In general, it is essential to analyse the relationship between prefects and other representatives of the state or notables.

Focus Area 2 – Prefects in their relations with mayors, military and administrative authorities

If we define the state as a field structured by relations of force or collaboration between various components or actors, the outbreakof the war brutally upsets the subtle institutional balances and rules of the political-administrative game. Thus, the Third Republic entrusted important competences to local elected officials, particularly to mayors[16]. It was a principle of subsidiarity that characterised assistance but also the public health policy put in place by the 1902 law. However, the urgency and scale of the problems to be solved led to the development of other frameworks for action. This was the case, for example, in the field of health or placement[17]. In terms of supply, the war did not lead to decentralisation, since the temporary organisations created became relays of the state[18]. During the war, the prefect was therefore the mayor's contact for a large number of issues: billeting troops, assisting refugees, cultivating land, providing supplies, etc. However, few works have directly addressed what the war did to the mayor/prefect couple (even though the historiography of this 'conflicting complementarity', particularly under the Third Republic, is better assured)[19]. Thus, in the work that Louis Fougère, Jean-Pierre Machelon and François Monnier had edited on communes and power since 1789[20], the period between 1914 and 1918 is curiously forgotten. And when historiography looks at the consequences of the conflict at the local level, it clearly leans towards the mayoral power[21]. It would therefore be appropriate to analyse the extent to which the conflict modified the organisation of traditional relations. Several approaches are possible here: the exercise of supervision has given rise since the vote of the law of 5 April 1884 to an abundance of administrative jurisprudence, thus gradually defining the interactions between the two authorities. To what extent does the irruption of the conflict transform the legal balances hitherto defined by the administrative judge? One thinks here of the jurisprudence known as 'war powers' (following the example of the theory of exceptional circumstances, CE, Heyriès, 1918) thus defining the contours of a “legality of war”.[22] The evolution of the relationship between prefects and notables can also be observed at the level of daily practices and the work carried out together. While in some departments the mayors proved to be valuable auxiliaries, elsewhere, the distribution of allowances to the families of mobilised soldiers or refugees, the implementation of requisitions or the management of shortages gave rise to tensions with local elected officials, whether they were mayors, deputies or general councillors, an analysis of which can prove enlightening. More broadly, to what extent was the economy of the formal and informal political relationships that prefects and sub-prefects had with local elected officials disrupted?

The outbreak of the conflict also changed the balance and relationship between civil and military power. In August 1914, the former gave up a lot to the latter: the reactivation of the law on the state of siege dating from 1849 transferred a certain number of powers devolved to the representatives of the state to the generals commanding the military regions. Although it then extended to the entire territory, from September 1915 the army zone was reduced to the departments crossed by the front. However, throughout the conflict, the prefects and the military authorities had to work together, whether it was a question of manpower, supplying the troops or evacuating civilians. While historiography has documented the relationship between the civilian and military authorities on a national scale, little is known about the local level.

Finally, the start of the war also changed the relationship between the prefectural authorities and the state administrations. The prefects are pivotal players between the central administrations (they are responsible, for example, for identifying coal needs) and the local State. Has the war modified their dialogues with the various ministries? Observers of local populations, watchdogs of departmental public opinion, fine connoisseurs of the social and political realities of their territory, have the representatives of the State been able to exert more pressure (and thereby no doubt be better and more listened to) on the ministries to obtain ever more means to maintain agricultural and industrial production, support the war industry or supply the front?

Focus Area 3 – Administration in wartime : Prefects and sub-prefects in their relations with the citizens

The prefect was the essential link between the government and the population. In times of conflict, he no longer appears only as 'the representative of the Republic' but above all as 'the leader of the war effort'. His figure and his relationship with the population were likely to be modified. Prefects were no longer asked to enforce the law at the local level, but also to train the population and rally them to the war effort.

It is therefore a question of exploring first and foremost the efforts made to inform and convince the population so that they agree to comply and do what the state requires of them, whether it is to deliver their crops in the context of requisitions or to pay their gold for the national loan. The mobilisation of civil society relies largely on mayors but also on prefects. What arguments, media or relays were mobilised?  One can think in particular of posters, which could give rise to a specific reflection[23]. This incentive action is coupled with a repressive aspect. The prefects were responsible for censoring and maintaining order to avoid disturbances that could hinder or even paralyse the war effort. How was this repressive action unfold? How extensive was it? Was it accompanied by a certain tolerance? As the war accentuated the blurring between the "right hand" and the "left hand" of the state[24], how did these repressive practices fit in with the functions of protection and relief? The prefects were ultimately responsible for preventing and alerting by informing of any event that might be of interest to the government[25]. How did they do this during the war and how did they interpret the perceived mood of their constituents? Answering this last question invites us to consider the way in which the prefects themselves perceived and experienced the conflict. In the background, it is also the whole question of the changes in the prefectural profession that this axis would like to address. How does one embody the state[26] in times of war? How does one exercise and reinvent one's role in the emergency of war? Indeed, prefectoral work is not only administrative. Administering also meant representing the State in all its dimensions: travelling around the department or the arrondissement (“the art of being there”[27]), receiving and inviting local society (balls, receptions, etc.) to the prefecture, multiplying informal exchanges, etc. However, all of this became almost impossible in the context of the Sacred Union and the permanent war effort. To what extent did the representatives of the State have to invent new political and administrative skills? In other words, how do you "maintain the state" when the state is entirely devoted to the logic of war?

Focus Area 4 – "The prefecture in and out of the trench” : living the war as a prefect and sub-prefect

General mobilisation did not spare the senior civil service[28]. Although some figures have gone down in history, such as Henri Collignon, who enlisted as a private first class in the 46th infantry regiment in August 1914[29], the historiography of the Great War (particularly in France) has not yet paid much attention to the involvement of senior civil servants[30]. However, many young senior civil servants were mobilised. Among them were sub-prefects and some 'young prefects': 300 members of the prefectural administration went to the front and 44 were killed[31]. While the aim is to address - following the example of recent work on intellectuals - the "still insufficiently known question of unequal exposure to the conditions of the front and to death[32]" and, more broadly, of class relations within the trenches, this axis is also intended to be a space for confrontation with the prefectural administrative imaginary in wartime. Indeed, there were those who were mobilised and at the front, but there were also all those who - beyond the exercise of their profession in the war - lived through the conflict: the sub-prefects and prefects of the occupied departments from the first months of the war (those who were obliged to leave their posts, those who were taken prisoner, those who remained in the face of the enemy), the administrators of the rear, but also of the Algerian departments. Did the departmental administrators leave traces, accounts, testimonies, intimate correspondence, diaries relating their "war days"[33]? Few accounts are still known, such as that of the prefect of the Nord, Félix Trépont[34], even though a huge effort to compile these "private writings" has been undertaken in recent years as part of the "interactive memorial project" that was the "Grande Collecte 1914-1918". This focus area would also be an opportunity to draw up a first possible inventory of these forgotten accounts of prefects or sub-prefects at war. "If these counter-sources closely follow the point of view and the emotional folds of the writers, [...] [they] do not say anything other than otherwise. For unity here is neither a population, nor a territory, nor a social problem, but a gesture of writing as a 'deposit of self' (of one's fear, dismay, suffering [...] or [of] one's hatred) as a counterpoint to the collectives of emotions and shared times."[35]

Focus Area 5 – European Prefects and Governors in the Great War

This international colloquium is also intended as a space for reflection on the multiscalar forms of the relationship between the administrative elites and the War. Can we identify – beyond the institutional and political configurations – the contours of an administrative culture of war in all belligerent states[36]? To what extent are the practices, habits, behaviours, know-how, interpersonal skills, and imaginary images of administration modified by the war? In other words, "what particularities can be identified in the conception that [these senior] civil servants have of their job, their responsibility and their duty in wartime[37]? Answers have already been provided, but they are probably still too rare[38]. A more systematic comparison of the administrative practices (public order, supplies, information, support for the population in the rear, etc.) of the representatives of the state in the different countries at war would undoubtedly make it possible to better measure the differences, but also the continuities, of what the war did to state practices. Studies have shown that bureaucratic and professional legitimacies were profoundly changed by the war[39]. However, can we generalise these analyses and observations? More broadly, the comparison would invite a better understanding of what the different 'states of war' (geography, involvement in the conflict, etc.) did to the prefectoral profession.

Submission Procedure and Guidelines

To submit your paper, please send to this e-mail address histoireprefectoral@ihemi.fr your abstract of 3000 to 5000 characters maximum (excluding bibliography) with a provisional title and a short bibliography

by the 1st June 2023 at the latest.

Submitted papers will be examined by the Scientific and Organising Committees in the weeks following the deadline for responding to the call. A response will be provided early July at the latest. We welcome contributions from various fields such as history, political science, law, anthropology, sociology… The working language will be French, papers may be presented in French and in English.

The conference will take place at Sciences Po Toulouse on 14 and 15 December 2023. It is supported by the department of prefectoral history of the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Ministry of the Interior (IHEMI), Sciences Po Toulouse, the Social Sciences of Politics Laboratory (LaSSP) and the laboratory Institutions and Historical Dynamics of the Economy and Society (IDHES - UMR 8533) of the Paris Nanterre University.

A publication of the proceedings is planned.

Scientific Officers

  • Laure Machu (IDHES – Paris Nanterre)
  • Gildas Tanguy (LaSSP – Sciences Po Toulouse)

Scientific Committee

  • Pierre Allorant (POLEN – Université d’Orléans)
  • Jean-Michel Bricault (CRDT – Université de Reims)
  • Alain Chatriot (CHSP – Sciences Po)
  • Emmanuelle Cronier (CHSSC – Université de Picardie Jules Verne)
  • Catherine Grémion (CSO – Sciences Po)
  • Pierre Karila-Cohen (TEMPORA – Université Rennes 2)
  • Yann Lagadec (TEMPORA – Université Rennes 2 ; Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan)
  • Tiphaine Le Yoncourt (IODE – Université de Rennes)
  • Nicolas Mariot (CESSP – CNRS)
  • Edenz Maurice (IHEMI ; CHSP – Sciences Po)
  • Jean-Paul Pellegrinetti (CMMC – Université de Nice)
  • Pierre André Peyvel (Préfet honoraire – IHEMI)
  • Vincent Viet (Cermes3 – CNRS)

Organizing Committee

  • Pierre Karila-Cohen (TEMPORA – Université Rennes 2)
  • Laure Machu (IDHES – Paris Nanterre)
  • Edenz Maurice (IHEMI ; CHSP – Sciences Po)
  • Pierre André Peyvel (IHEMI)
  • Gildas Tanguy (LaSSP – Sciences Po Toulouse)


[1] Stéphane Audouin-Rouzeau et Annette Becker, “Vers une histoire culturelle de la première guerre mondiale”, Vingtième Siècle. Revue d’histoire, n° 41, pp. 5-8. More broadly, on this new reading of the conflict and the related notion of “culture of war”, see the same authors, 14-18, retrouver la Guerre, Paris, Gallimard, 2000. For a discussion of the concept, see Nicolas Offenstadt, Philippe Olivera, Emmanuelle Picard et Frédéric Rousseau, « À propos d’une notion récente : la “culture de guerre” », in Frédéric Rousseau (dir.), Guerres, paix et société, 1911-1946, Neuilly, Atlande, 2004, pp. 667-674.

[2]  Sylvain Berstchy et Philippe Salson (dir.), Les mises en guerre de l’État. 1914-1918 en perspective, Paris, ENS Éditions, 2018, p. 10.

[3] See in particular the work carried out by the Collectif de Recherche International et de Débat sur la guerre de 1914-1918 (CRID 14-18). See in particular, André Loez, Nicolas Mariot (dir.), Obéir, désobéir. Les mutineries de 1917 en perspective, Paris, La Découverte, 2008 ; Nicolas Mariot, Tous unis dans la tranchée ? 1914-1918, les intellectuels rencontrent le peuple, Paris, Editions du Seuil, 2013.

[4] Ibid. See also the work that has been carried out in recent years under the sponsorship of the Centenary Committee and the History Committee of the Ministry of Finance (CHEFF). For example, Florence Descamps, Laure-Quennouëlle-Corre (dir.), La mobilisation financière pendant la Grande Guerre. Le front financier, un troisième front, Paris, CHEFF, 2015 ; Une fiscalité de guerre ? Contraintes, innovations, résistances 1914-1918, Paris, CHEFF, 2018 ; Florence Descamps, « Le ministère des Finances et la Grande Guerre », Revue française de finances publiques, n° 141, 2018, pp. 147-167.

[5] To use the title of Pierre Renouvin's classic work, Les formes du gouvernement de guerre, Paris, PUF, 1925. On what the conflict has done to political and governmental action, see Fabienne Bock, “L’exubérance de l’État en France de 1914 à 1918”, Vingtième Siècle. Revue d’histoire, n° 3, 1984, pp. 41-51 and its book, Un parlementarisme de guerre, Paris, Belin, 2002. Cf. also, Nicolas Rousselier, La force de gouverner. Le pouvoir exécutif en France XIXe - XXIe siècles, Paris, Gallimard, 2015, chapitre X, “Le souffle de la Guerre”, pp. 333-375 et Anne-Laure Anizan, “1914-1918, le gouvernement de guerre”, Histoire@Politique, 2014/1, n° 22, pp. 215-232.

[6] See, for example, the Great War and social protection dossier coordinated by Anne Rasmussen in the Revue d’histoire de la protection sociale. Introduction. Protéger la société de la guerre : de l’assistance aux “droits sur la nation”, 2016/1, n° 9, pp. 9-24.

[7] Alain Jacobzone, « La Grande Guerre des préfets de Maine-et-Loire », in Jean-Luc Marais (dir.), Les préfets de Maine-et-Loire. Rennes : Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2000. Web. See also, Catalogue de l’exposition Femmes et hommes du ministère de l’Intérieur dans la Grande Guerre, Paris, Archives nationales/DICOM, 2015, 54 p.

[8] Jean-François Chanet, “Propos conclusifs sur les logiques ordinaires d’un temps d’exception” dans Sylvain Bertschy, Philippe Salson, Blaise Wilfert-Portal dir., Les mises en guerre de l'État : 1914-1918 en perspective, Lyon, ENS Editions, 2021, pp. 321-326. The conflict multiplies the forms of evasion of the rules, whether we think of non-compliance with compulsory schooling or the question of self-consumption or the black market to circumvent rationing.

[9] Jay Winter (dir.), La Première Guerre mondiale, Paris, Fayard, 2013 et 2014 [tome 1 : Combats - tome 2 : Etats - tome 3 : Sociétés]. See also, Antoine Prost, Jay Winter, Penser la guerre. Un essai d’historiographie, Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1994 ; John Horne (dir.), State, society and mobilization in Europe during the First World War, Cambridge, Cambrige University Press, 2009.

[10] See in particular, Gildas Tanguy et Jean-Michel Eymeri-Douzans (dir.), Prefects, Governors and Commissioners. Territorial Representatives of the State in Europe, Londres, Palgrave Macmillan, 2021 et Pierre Karila-Cohen (dir.), Prefects and Governors in Nineteenth-century Europe. Towards a Comparative History of Provincial Senior Officials, Londres, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2022.

[11] As with some of the work that has been done on other state figures. Cf. Jean-François Condette, « Les recteurs d’académie dans la Première Guerre mondiale. Servir la patrie en maintenant l’École (1914-1918) », in Stéphane Le Bras, Laurent Dornel (dir.), Les fronts intérieurs européens. L’arrière en guerre (1914-1920), Rennes, PUR, 2018, pp. 111-130.

[12] La préfecture du Pas-de-Calais dans la tourmente de la Première Guerre mondiale, Préfecture du Pas-de-Calais, Publication du centenaire 1914-1918, 2018, pp. 8-12.

[13] Stéphane Lembré, La guerre des bouches. Ravitaillement et alimentation à Lille (1914-1919), Lille, Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2016.

[14] La préfecture du Pas-de-Calais…, op. cit. On the massive recruitment of auxiliaries during times of conflict, see Quentin Lohou, L’évolution du droit des relations du travail des agents non titulaires de la fonction publique d’Etat, PhD, dir. Jean-Pierre Le Crom, Université de Nantes, 2020.

[15] Patrick Fridenson (dir.), 1914-1918. L’Autre front, Paris, Éditions ouvrières, 1977 ; Stéphane Le Bras, Laurent Dornel (dir.), Les fronts intérieurs européens., op. cit.

[16] Bruno Dumons et Gilles Pollet, « Espaces politiques et gouvernements municipaux dans la France de la Troisième République. Éclairage sur la sociogenèse de l’État contemporain », Politix, 14 (53), 2001, pp. 15-32.

[17] There was a centralisation and departmentalisation of health policy in order to ensure a tight prophylactic network of the territory. The prefects thus relieved the mayors of a responsibility that had become overwhelming with the conflict. Cf. Vincent Viet, La santé en guerre 1914-1918, Paris, Presses de Sciences Po, 2015. In terms of placement, the Departmental Placement Offices, managed by committees made up of representatives of employers and workers' unions, but also of local elected officials and representatives of the prefectural services, were created in 1915 to compensate for the inadequacy of the municipal offices. See, Thierry Bonzon “Réorganiser le marché du travail à Paris” in Isabelle. Lespinet-Moret, Laure Machu, Vincent Viet (eds.), Mains-d’oeuvre en guerre, Paris, La Documentation française, 2018.

[18] Pierre Chancerel, “L’économie de guerre”, in Philippe Nivet. Coraline Coutant-Daydé, Mathieu Stoll (eds.), Archives de la Grande Guerre : Des sources pour l’histoire. Rennes, PUR, 2014, pp. 267-277.

[19] Cf. notamment, Pierre Allorant, Le corps préfectoral et les municipalités dans les départements de la Loire moyenne au XIXe siècle (1800-1914), Orléans, Presses Universitaires d’Orléans, 2007.

[20] Louis Fougère, Jean-Pierre Machelon et François Monnier (dir.), Les communes et le pouvoir de 1789 à nos jours, Paris, PUF, 2002.

[21] For example, Philippe Nivet, “Les municipalités en temps de guerre (1814-1944)”, Parlements. Revue d’histoire politique, 2013/2, n° 20, p. 67-88.

[22] François Burdeau, Histoire du droit administratif, Paris, PUF, 1995, p. 308 et s.

[23] In the wake of Frédéric Graber's work on administrative signage in the 19th century.Cf. L’affichage administratif au XIXe siècle. Former le consentement, Paris, Éditions de la Sorbonne, à paraître en avril 2023.

[24] As Sylvain Bertschy, Philippe Salson and Blaise Wilfert-Portal argue in the introduction to the book Les mises en guerre de l’État, op. cit., p. 10.

[25] Gregory Zeigin, “Les rapports des préfets” in Philippe Nivet., Coraline Coutant-Daydé, Mathieu Stoll (dir), Archives de la Grande Guerre, op. cit., pp. 265-266.

[26] On this central role of prefects and sub-prefects, see Pierre Karila-Cohen, Monsieur le Préfet. Incarner l’État dans la France du XIXe siècle, Ceyzérieux, Champ Vallon, 2021.

[27]On this aspect, see Gildas Tanguy, “Administrer ‘autrement’ le département. ‘Les préfets en tournées’ (1880-1940). Entre folklore républicain, rituel bureaucratique et pratiques informelles…”, in Laurent Le Gall, Michel Offerlé et François Ploux (dir.), La politique sans en avoir l’air. Aspects de la politique informelle, XIXe-XXIe siècle, Rennes, PUR, 2012, pp. 35-50.

[28]See in particular, Le Conseil d’État et la Grande Guerre, Paris, La Documentation française, 2017 and La Cour des comptes dans la guerre de 14-18, Paris, La Documentation française, 2015.

[29] A State Councillor, Henri Collignon joined at the age of 58. He had had a long career in the prefecture under the Third Republic (sub-prefect then prefect of Corrèze, Aveyron and Finistère in particular).

[30] This is probably because statistical data on the social composition of the French army is almost non-existent. Cf., André Loez, “Autour d’un angle mort historiographique : la composition sociale de l’armée française en 1914-1918”, Matériaux pour l’histoire de notre temps, n° 91, 2008, pp. 32-41. More broadly, on the involvement of intellectuals in the war, see Martha Hanna, The Mobilization of Intellect. French Scholars and Writers during the Great War, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1996 ; Nicolas Mariot, Tous unis dans la tranchée, op. cit., and by the same author, “Pourquoi les normaliens sont-ils morts en masse en 1914-1918 ? Une explication structurale”, Pôle Sud, n° 1, 2012, pp. 9-30 ; “La mobilisation normalienne et le service de l’État”, in Sylvain Berstchy et Philippe Salson (dir.), Les mises en guerre de l’État, op. cit. pp. 23-45.

[31] Femmes et hommes du ministère de l’Intérieur dans la Grande Guerre, catalogue de l’exposition, DICOM, 2018.

[32] Nicolas Mariot, “La mobilisation normalienne et le service de l’État”, op.cit., p. 23.

[33] Yves Pourcher, Les jours de guerre. La vie des français au jour le jour. 1914-1918, Paris, Hachette/Pluriel, 1994.

[34] Philippe Verheyde, “Journaux du préfet Trépont. Une chronique engagée de la guerre à la déportation (1914-1915), in Philippe Henwood et Paule René-Bazin (dir.), Écrire en guerre 1914-1918. Des archives privées aux usages publics, Rennes, PUR, 2017, pp. 121-133.The diary of the prefect Félix Trépont is deposited in the National Archives under number 96 AP.

[35] Philippe Artières et Jean-François Laé, Archives personnelles. Histoire, anthropologie et sociologie, Paris, Armand Colin, 2011, p. 9.

[36] See in this respect, Marc Olivier Baruch, « L’État et les sociétés en guerre en Europe : le cas français », Histoire, économie & société, 2004/2, pp. 235-246.

[37] Ibid., p. 245.

[38] See in particular, Marie-Bénédicte Vincent, « Quand les fonctionnaires doutent de l’État. Le délitement de l’administration allemande pendant la Première Guerre mondiale », Revue d’histoire moderne & contemporaine, 2012/2, n°59, pp. 56-84.

[39] Ibid., pp. 72-74.


  • Toulouse, France (31)


  • Thursday, June 01, 2023


  • préfet, première guerre mondiale, 1914-1918


  • Laure Machu
    courriel : lmachu [at] parisnanterre [dot] fr
  • gildas.tanguy@ut-capitole.fr
    courriel :

Information source

  • Laure Machu
    courriel : lmachu [at] parisnanterre [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Prefects in the war (France / Europe 1914-1918) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, March 27, 2023, https://calenda.org/1059454

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