HomeIn the Heart of the Great War

HomeIn the Heart of the Great War

In the Heart of the Great War

Au cœur de la Grande Guerre

The Individual at the Crossroads between the Civilian and Military Worlds

L'individu au croisement du civil et du militaire

*  *  *

Published on Friday, January 27, 2017


The symposium theme is merely a guideline, a clue for reflection rather than a well-defined subject. It leads us to question the ways through which individuals – soldiers, civilians at the home front or in occupied territories – integrate and conciliate the military dimension on one side (whether it’s their experience at the front or German presence on the streets of their village) and the civil dimension on the other. In addition to the encounter between the civilian and military “worlds”, constituting two separate spheres, we must reflect upon the individual as being at the crossroads between two dimensions, which jointly construct him or her.



The 2016 Summer School organised by the International Research Centre of the Historial de la Grande Guerre de Péronne has led to many exchanges and debates which needed to be prolonged and perpetuated. In that sense, we invite papers for a symposium directed at young researchers, such as graduate students and PhD students. The organisers intend to publish the proceedings of this conference at a later date.

The historiography of World War I has been largely built upon the basis of separation between the History of battles on one side and occupied populations and the home front on the other[1]. Nonetheless, to reason with this image is to forget that World War I, as total warfare, has set new means of meeting, coexisting and cohabitating between the civilian and the military spheres. From the military front to the home front, and through occupied territories, the war experience is a crossway, perhaps even an interaction between the civilian and military worlds, as the expression ‘home front’suggests[2].

For the people subjected to military service, the general mobilization is certainly a deep rupture with life before the war: especially the family and the village. However, the acceptance of the conflict must also be understood in terms of a continuity, which re-imagines the process of training for the civilian, who, from the school playground to the army barracks, is predisposed to war. Similarly, the spirit of the combatants cannot be viewed without considering a recurring and essential element in their way of thinking—the home front—meaning both memory and hope. Ignoring the relationship between the civilian and military world would also be forgetting that most soldiers during the Great War were civilians wearing uniforms. In the midst of this intersection, there also is the need to question the transference of practice from the civilian sphere to the military sphere.

Similar comments on the porous nature of these two spheres are applicable to populations in occupied territories and in the home front. War invites itself into lives, homes and families, thus becoming an integral part of everyday life. In occupied territories, from collaboration to resistance, the civilian response to occupiers’ presence shows the intrusion of the military into the civilian sphere. In this way, civilians adapt and interpret the military, bringing new behaviors. After the war, actions towards the collaborators, as those towards women, called femmes à boches, tell of a conflict extending to the most private and intimate spheres of the social life of the occupied societies. Furthermore, home front should not be reduced to war effort or Union Sacrée but reassessed in order to discover the complexity of civilians’ relationship to military affairs.

Far from denying the necessary distinction between the radically different experiences of the soldier and of the people under occupation or in the home front, we have to bring back the individual in the same approach: the human being at war, an actor at the heart of the intervention on the military and civilian fields. This analytical grid, largely inherited from a renewed historiography of the First World War, which tends to put the individual at the centre of the discussion, supports our argument. Beyond a simple encounter between civilians and soldiers, the purpose of this reflection is to grasp how the human being integrates and associates these two realms, narrates this junction, and how one shows and expresses one’s choices and behaviours, individual or collective.

Expected proposals will discuss this link between the civilian and military worlds in the Great War, but may also extend across a longer timeframe. The geographical frame of the subject is not limited to European events, but can also stretch out to other places of confrontation, in order to question the relevance of this interpretative framework to all the warring countries.

Submission guidelines

Proposals should be approximately one page in length. Applications should also be accompanied by a short CV. Please submit proposals to intheheartofthegreatwar@gmail.com

by 3th March 2017.

The working language of the conference is French and English.

The symposium will take place from 26th to 28thOctober 2017 at the Mons Memorial Museum in Mons, Belgium. Expenses for accommodation and travel will be cover insofar as possible. We invite you to ask first to your institution.

Scientific Committee

  • Luc Capdevila (professor / Université Rennes 2)
  • Emmanuelle Cronier (maître de conférence / Université de Picardie – Jules Verne)
  • Emmanuel Debruyne (professor / Université catholique de Louvain)
  • Franziska Heimburger (maître de conférence / Université Paris-Sorbonne)
  • Chantal Kesteloot (head of department Public History / CEGESOMA)
  • Benoît Majerus (assistant professor / Université du Luxembourg)
  • Markus Pöhlmann (researcher / Zentrum für Militärgeschichte und Sozialwissenschaften der Bundeswehr)
  • Axel Tixhon (professor / Université de Namur)
  • Laurence van Ypersele (full professor / Université catholique de Louvain) 

Conference Committee

  • Emmanuel Debruyne (professor / Université catholique de Louvain)
  • Erwan Le Gall ( PhD candidate / Université de Rennes 2)
  • Gwendal Piégais (Université catholique de Louvain)
  • Élise Rezsöhazy (F.R.S.-FNRS research fellow / Université catholique de Louvain)
  • Axel Tixhon (professor / Université de Namur)

[1] Prost Antoine and Winter Jay, Penser la Grande, un essai d’historiographie, Paris, Seuil, 2004.

[2] For a new and transnational analysis of the ‘home front’concept, see the yet to be published acts of the “Les Fronts intérieurs européens : l’arrière en guerre (1914-1920)” symposium that took place on November 2015.


  • Mons Memorial Museum - Boulevard Dolez, 51
    Mons, Belgium (7000)


  • Friday, March 03, 2017

Attached files


  • Grande Guerre, Great War, individu, civil, militaire, civilian world, military world

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Élise Rezsöhazy
    courriel : occupations2022 [at] gmail [dot] com


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

To cite this announcement

« In the Heart of the Great War », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, January 27, 2017, https://calenda.org/391767

Archive this announcement

  • Google Agenda
  • iCal
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search