HomeCivilians and military in European territorial administration from the late 18th century to the First World War

HomeCivilians and military in European territorial administration from the late 18th century to the First World War

Civilians and military in European territorial administration from the late 18th century to the First World War

Civils et militaires dans l'administration territoriale de l'Europe de la fin du XVIIIe siècle à la première guerre mondiale

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Published on Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Des régions et des populations entières sont directement gouvernées par des militaires, comme c’est le cas par exemple dans plusieurs espaces périphériques de l’Empire russe soumis à des régimes d’exception. Dans d’autres cas, civils et militaires partagent l’autorité sur un territoire et entretiennent des relations de coopération ou de rivalité. L'objectif de ce colloque consiste à cartographier les situations existantes et leurs évolutions au cours d'un long XIXe siècle, en lien avec le processus plus ou moins heurté de démocratisation ou au moins d'aspirations libérales/démocratiques et à tenter d'analyser ce que cette relation complexe avec les militaires possède comme effets dans les pratiques et la culture professionnelle des préfets, gouverneurs, Statthalter etc.



Contrary to the myth of French exceptionalism on the matter, in most European states in the 19th century equivalents have existed (and still exist) of the French state representatives of the préfet and sous-préfet. Many types of territorial officials were present in Europe, such as the Prussian OberpräsidentenRegierungspräsidenten and Landräte, Austrian Bezirkshauptmänner, Spanish gobernadores, or Swedish generalguvernörer. Also think of the Italian prefetti, created during the Risorgimento, and concurrently the Romanian prefects; as well as many state intermediaries within the European parts of the Ottoman Empire, such as the pashas. Each of these figures of authority – at the same time similar and different – has been the object of scholarly research. In some countries historical literature is abundant, in other countries literature is somewhat thinner. Whatever the case, many scholars continue to write from a strictly national perspective, and do not disseminate their findings internationally. As a result, European territorial administration and territorial officials are scarcely explored from a historical-comparative viewpoint.

Wanting to remedy this historiographical oversight, the initiative was taken to gather international specialists on the subject. During an inaugural two-day workshop in Rennes, on 8 and 9 October 2015, (http://www.sites.univ-rennes2.fr/cerhio/spip.php?article1699) participants exchanged insights on national historiographies, sources and methodology, and discussed the possibilities, and challenges, of new collaborative approaches to the history of state representatives in Europe. The terms ‘territorial administration’ and ‘territorial officials’ serve as a framework for cross-cultural analysis: they are used as generic terms to refer to the large variety of European administrative entities and subnational state representatives over the course of the 19th century. In order to achieve the overarching objectives of the project, the idea has been taken up to organize a series of international meetings.

The first colloquium is devoted to the relevant theme of the relations between civilians and the military in European territorial administration. This issue, in fact, structures much of challenges which were posed to state representatives during the long 19th century. It has to be noted that many areas of Europe, and populations, have at one time been governed by military authorities. In some cases the military directly ruled parts of the state, such as in certain peripheries of the Russian Empire. In other cases civilians and the military shared power, but the later often wielded most power. For example, in mid-19th century Spain, civil Governors were created who could do rather little against military officers who were charged with maintaining public order as well. And at times, territorial administration was of a purely civil nature but coexisted with, and frequently competed with, a parallel military hierarchy. The creation of the French préfets, during the French Revolution, is a case in point. Well into the 19th century prefects and commanders in the departments conflicted and were jealous of each other’s authority. In short, the understudied interactions between civil and military administration might have played a significant role in modern state-formation in Europe.

Main questions

The main questions that will be addressed are the following:

Who, civil or military officials, wielded power over the population? In other words, which types of (quasi-)military administrated territories and officials have existed, roughly in the years between 1780 and 1914? Since there is still a lack of an international overview, an important objective is to carefully inventory and clarify geographical variations and transformations over the course of time.

How did the distribution of tasks between state officials and administrative entities evolve over time? In particular, the distribution of tasks between civilians and military concerning law enforcement and public order might reveal clashes of competence between actors.

To which extent are have these developments been connected to processes of liberalisation/democratization and changing notions of arbitrariness, which seems to have been inherent to military administration? In particular it is significant in which part of Europe, and at what times, exceptional laws, such as marital law, were enacted.

Which comparisons can be made between colonial models and types of (quasi-)military governance in Europe? Did the circulation of colonial knowledge and oversees experiences shape the workings of territorial administration on the Continent?

How was power between civil and military officials distributed during times of upheaval. Suppressing riots, confronting social-political revolutions, and subduing strikes probably led to clashes of competences. Did representatives of the state, such as the préfetStatthalter or Regierungspräsident, play a mediating role between parties over the course of the 19th century?

Can the professional cultures of civil and military officials be compared? It seems military culture was dominant, even in the civil administration. The ethics of administrators, the concept of hierarchy, uniforms, style of governing, often originated from the military. For instance, the German Empire put its faith in the traditional military ethos. In other states a professional culture emerged that was strictly of a civil nature and was juxtaposed with military ethics.

Submission guidelines

We invite proposals for 20 minute talks in French or English. Papers either take the form of a case study, or an original and unpublished synthesis. Please submit your proposal by e-mail (pierre.karila-cohen@univ-rennes2.fr & martijn.vanderburg@ou.nl)

before 1st June 2016.

An international scientific committee will ensure the best possible distribution of papers, in terms of chronology, geographical scope and research themes.

The Colloquium “Civilians and military in European territorial administration from the late 18th century to the First World War” will be held at the Université Rennes 2 – 16, 17 and 18 November 2016

Organisation du colloque

  •  Pierre Karila-Cohen, Université Rennes 2 et IUF.
  •  Martijn Van der Burg, Open University of the Netherlands.

Comité scientifique

  •  Livio Antonielli, Universita degli studi, Milan.
  •  Marc Olivier Baruch, EHESS.
  •  Waltraud Heindl, Université de Vienne.
  •  Joanna Innes, Sommerville College, Oxford.
  •  Jean Le Bihan, Université Rennes 2.
  •  Tiphaine Le Yoncourt, Université Rennes 1.
  •  John LeDonne, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard.
  •  Jean-Philippe Luis, Université Blaise-Pascal (Clermont-Ferrand).
  •  Manel Risques Corbella, Université de Barcelone.
  •  Gildas Tanguy, IEP Toulouse.
  •  Michel Tissier, Université Rennes 2.
  •  Marie-Bénédicte Vincent, ENS-Ulm.


  • Wednesday, June 01, 2016


  • État, administration, territoire, gouvernement, préfet, gouverneur, relation avec l'armée


  • Pierre Karila-Cohen
    courriel : pierre [dot] karila-cohen [at] wanadoo [dot] fr
  • Martijn Van der Burg
    courriel : Martijn [dot] Vanderburg [at] ou [dot] nl

Information source

  • Pierre Karila-Cohen
    courriel : pierre [dot] karila-cohen [at] wanadoo [dot] fr


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

To cite this announcement

« Civilians and military in European territorial administration from the late 18th century to the First World War », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, May 18, 2016, https://doi.org/10.58079/v3p

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