Corsican nationalism twenty years after the assassination of Prefect Claude Erignac

On Tuesday 6 February 2018, Emmanuel Macron is due to make his first visit to Corsica since being elected French President. The occasion will be to mark twenty years since the assassination of Prefect Claude Erignac in Ajaccio by Corsican terrorists. The murder provoked shockwaves across Corsica and France and was condemned by many, including the overwhelming majority of Corsicans.

Twenty years since the assassination of Erignac, and over forty years since the beginning of the terrorist campaigns to bring Corsican independence from France, how far have things changed in Corsica?

In 2014, the FLNC announced it was laying down its arms, and although some terrorist groups still exist, Corsican nationalism has moved into mainstream politics. In the December 2017 elections to the Corsican Assembly, nationalists groups won a comfortable overall majority, led by Corsica Libera’s Jean-Guy Talamoni. Meanwhile, the president of Corsica’s executive council, is none other than Gilles Simeoni, lawyer for Yvan Colonna who was convicted of Erignac’s murder.

Nationalist parties now dominate Corsican politics, and there is a sense that Corsica is growing increasingly distant from mainland France in political terms. After decades of little being done to improve the island’s poor infrastructure, high unemployment and poverty, many Corsicans feeling that only nationalists will stand up for them.

The 2017 legislative elections saw nationalists overturn decades of domination by a small number of established political families, many of whom had held office for decades, if not centuries. In one of the most significant results, the nationalist Paul-André Colombani overturned the comfortable lead of Les Républicains deputy Camille de Rocca Serra, who had dominated politics in southern Corsica since 1988. De Rocca Serra had taken over from his father, Jean-Paul de Rocca Serra, who in his turn had held held political office continually since 1949.

When Macron arrives in Corsica he is facing a tough challenge. In round one of the 2017 presidential elections, he came mere third, behind Marine Le Pen and François Fillon. He has also made it clear that he does not intend to make concessions to Corsican nationalists that might compromise the values of the French Republic.

But things have changed in Corsica in recent years. In part due to the growing influence of the nationalists, the island has been a more assertive of its identity and language. The Corsican Assembly led the way with Talamoni making a point of using the Corsican language, rather than French. More broadly, over the past two or three years, dual language signs are becoming more common, with shops, for instance, now having signs in Corsican as well as French. The Corsican anthem, Diu vi Salvi Regina, can now be heard not just at football matches, but at family gatherings.

However, with this, there has also been a rise in the more exclusionary type of Corsican nationalism. It is increasingly common to see ‘IFF’ graffiti, signalling ‘I Francesi Fora’ or ‘French out’. There have also been tensions between some nationalists and the island’s Muslim communities, flaring up most dramatically in Sisco in 2016.

So there is a good deal at stake in Macron’s meetings with Corsica’s political leaders on 6 February. On the one hand, most Corsicans do not support independence. On the other, the more the French government refuses to make concessions to Corsica, the more the nationalists are able to present the government in Paris as being far-removed, uninterested and unwilling to support the island. But if the nationalists push too far, however, they risk losing support from Corsicans and losing the chance to push for greater autonomy.

 

 

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Relations between Britain and France in World War Two

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Institut Français d’Ecosse, Edinburgh, 3 May 2017

Roundtable speakers: Professor Peter Jackson (Glasgow) and Dr Emile Chabal (Edinburgh)

When war was declared in September 1939, Britain and France stood together as allies with similar democratic traditions, levels of military and economic strength and global interests. Within less than a year, however, the two states had severed diplomatic relations and become bitter enemies. This one-day workshop seeks to explore the trajectory of relations between Britain and France over the course of the Second World War. While historians have often highlighted how military defeats and political tensions caused mutual suspicions rooted in centuries of imperial and naval rivalries to resurface, this workshop aims to examine how the interconnections between the two states were critical to their survival and future.

We invite speakers to interpret this subject in its broadest sense. Possible topics might include:

  • Diplomatic relations between Britain, Vichy France and the Free French
  • Military and intelligence relations
  • Propaganda and perceptions
  • The SOE and British roles in French resistance activities
  • The RAF bombing campaign in France
  • The liberation of France
  • Colonial rivalries between Britain and France, 1939-45
  • Legacies of the war in postwar relations between Britain and France

Proposals for papers of 20 minute or for panels of two or three papers are invited. We particularly invite contributions from postgraduate students and overseas scholars. Paper proposals should comprise a paper title, abstract of 300 words and a one-page CV in a single pdf file. Please send proposals to Dr Karine Varley at: Karine.Varley@strath.ac.uk by 3 April 2017. Funding assistance will be available to contribute towards speakers’ travel expenses.

The workshop will be followed by a public roundtable discussion on the lessons and legacies of the Second World War for relations between the UK and France today. Roundtable speakers include Professor Peter Jackson (Glasgow) and Dr Emile Chabal (Edinburgh).

The workshop is part of a wider two-year project funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh on ‘Relations between Britain and France in World War Two’, led by Dr Rogelia Pastor-Castro and Dr Karine Varley, University of Strathclyde.

Edinburgh workshop programme

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Call for Papers: Society for the Study of French History 31st Annual Conference ‘France, Europe and the World’

Call for Papers: Society for the Study of French History 31st Annual Conference

‘France, Europe and the World’

University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, 26-27 June 2017

Confirmed plenary speakers:

Professor Robert Gildea (Oxford)

Professor John Merriman (Yale)

Professor Sophie Wahnich (CNRS)

Professor Marie-Laure Legay (Lille 3)

The history of France has been profoundly shaped by its European and global entanglements. Whether through its diplomatic and military engagements, colonial encounters, cultural and intellectual exchanges, or the interconnections of trade and commerce, the porous and fluid nature of France’s borders have brought a complex range of influences upon France’s history. As the role and status of France within Europe and the wider world changed, so did perceptions and representations of France.

This conference seeks to explore French history from international, transnational and global perspectives and invites speakers to reconsider the significance and relevance of the nation state. We invite participants to interpret the conference theme in its broadest terms.

In addition to the conference theme, we also invite papers or panels on any aspect of French history from the early medieval to the contemporary period and we welcome contributions that reflect the broad diversity of the history of France and its former colonial empire.

We invite proposals for 20 minute papers in English or in French on any aspect of the conference theme. Proposals for panels of two or three papers are particularly welcome. We particularly invite contributions from postgraduate students and overseas scholars. Paper proposals should comprise a paper title, abstract of 300 words and a one-page CV in a single pdf file. Please send proposals to Dr Karine Varley at: ssfh2017@gmail.com by 28 February 2017.

Find out more about the SSFH at: http://frenchhistorysociety.co.uk/

Twitter: #ssfh2017 – @FrenchHistoryUK

Conference organisers: Karine Varley and Rogelia Pastor-Castro

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BBC Monitoring and French Radio during the Second World War

Introduction

On 28 June 1940, Alexis Léger, the former head of the French Foreign Ministry told Winston Churchill that against a background of growing anti-British sentiment in France following the defeat, Britain might make use of the fact that BBC broadcasting was widely listened to in France and that by ‘clever use of the […] wireless’, they might be able to turn French public opinion around. In order to do this, however, they needed to know what was being said on the radio in France.

The axis powers were quick to realise the importance of controlling the airwaves, ordering the closure of all existing French radio stations as part of the armistice terms. In their place, two new stations were established: Radio Paris under German supervision in the northern occupied zone and Radiodiffusion Nationale, known as Radio Vichy, in the unoccupied zone. However, BBC radio could be picked up across much of France and evidence suggests that many French people considered the BBC to be the most trusted source of information. Listening to the BBC was outlawed, but the ban was regularly flouted and the Vichy government that came into office after the French defeat resisted German demands to make it a capital offence until the total occupation of France in November 1942.

The BBC Monitoring Service transcripts give historians important insights into how, faced with the challenges of the French defeat and occupation, British and French radio became at once locked in battle and connected in a dialogue. In the struggle for veracity and legitimacy, each shaped the other’s agenda and each was compelled to respond to the other’s claims. The BBC Monitoring transcripts gave up-to-date insights into the Vichy government’s responses to British actions and British propaganda and provided vital information on where Vichy saw itself going domestically and internationally.

bbc monitoring

Relations between Britain and France

Between the summer to the autumn of 1940, France went from being allied to Britain to collaborating with Nazi Germany. It was therefore a period of extraordinary sensitivity in Britain’s relations with France. The two key assets that Vichy retained under the June 1940 armistices, namely its colonial empire and naval fleet, were the very elements that caused the greatest concern for London. Fearing that they might yet fall into axis hands, the British government found itself compelled to defend the interests and security of Britain in ways that were damaging to the interests and security of France. These actions gave not just Vichy, but also the Free French, legitimate cause to question British intentions, resurrecting old suspicions about ‘perfidious Albion’. The first such incident was the British attack on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir on 3 July 1940. The British government claimed that it needed to ensure that the French fleet could not be seized by the Germans or Italians, but many in France saw it as unjustified aggression causing the deaths of almost 1300 French sailors. The fallout was significant, but it was only aggravated by a British and Free French attack on Dakar on 23-5 September 1940.

The delicate nature of relations between Britain and France during this period meant that it was critically important that British propaganda be precisely framed and targeted. Regardless of any military or strategic justifications, British actions directly affected Vichy’s move towards collaborating with Nazi Germany and provoked a wave of anti-British sentiment within many sections of French society. Getting accurate, up-to-date information was therefore vital.

 

Propaganda and the French public

It is generally acknowledged that to have any real impact, propaganda needs to have a receptive audience, and that to be credible it needs to have some grounding in reality. The problem for the BBC and for the Free French was how to counter the fact that many of the claims made by Radio Vichy seemed to ring true with many French people. A 1940 official document on British propaganda to France therefore stated that the primary task of radio propaganda for France was to counteract Anglophobia and to rebuild confidence in Britain’s power to continue the war. Following a strategy proposed by Maurice Schumann on 9 July 1940, French service broadcasts on the BBC sought to insist upon the continuing close connections and shared ordeals of the British and French people and to combat suspicions that Britain did not wish to see France restored to its former standing. The BBC Monitoring transcripts help us to gain a greater understanding of these strategies.

From its establishment in June 1940, Radio Vichy regularly refuted the claims made by the British government. Yet it was somewhat slower to respond systematically to the Free French broadcasts on the BBC, only beginning to do so in earnest in mid-April 1941. Radio Vichy tried to claim that the ‘stupidity of this propaganda’ had ‘seemed so obvious’ that it did not need to be refuted. But a more plausible explanation is that the shift in Radio Vichy’s strategy was a measure of the headway that the French broadcasts from London were making with the French public. The conscious and explicit nature of the responses from Radio Vichy was striking. One broadcast from late April 1941 conceded that ‘hundreds of thousands of people’ had indeed been ‘taken in’ by General de Gaulle’s words. The response from Radio Vichy revealed an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the strategies employed on BBC radio. Its claims that the attacks against Pétain were conducted with ‘infinite precision so as not upset public feeling’ suggested an awareness of how the BBC was mindful of many French people’s loyalty towards the marshal, even if they did not feel the same towards the Vichy regime.

Vichy radio

Reacting to British actions at Dakar

The British and Free French attack on Dakar on 23-25 September 1940 was easy prey for Vichy’s propaganda narrative that Britain was only interested in seizing defeated France’s colonies and that De Gaulle was a traitor implicated in Britain’s crimes. With the BBC depicting Vichy as the puppet of Nazi Germany, so Radio Vichy portrayed De Gaulle as ‘England’s servant’. Addressing De Gaulle’s adherents directly, Radio Vichy dramatically accused Free French supporters of complicity in the deaths of French servicemen. On 25 September 1940, the broadcaster declared: ‘Frenchmen […] some of you remained attached to De Gaulle. You have remained deaf to the cry for help of our soldiers who were burned, drowned, crushed without defence. […] Frenchmen… every one of you must become a judge. Those dead at Dakar united to those at Mers-el-Kébir demand justice. Hear them, answer them, as otherwise their blood will be on you’.

With the attack a failure, within days Vichy was able to send reporters out to Dakar to refute directly the claims being made by the BBC. A number of BBC Monitoring transcripts are highly evocative in describing the background noises included in the broadcasts, including the sounds of a plane at Dakar airport, crowds on the streets and a market scene. The sounds, as described in the transcripts, conveyed a defiant impression of life carrying on despite the actions of the British and Free French. The level of detail, on-location reports and eye-witness accounts lent the Dakar broadcasts a directness and credibility with which the BBC could not compete. They highlight how despite its reputation for trustworthy reporting, the BBC’s task of countering Vichy’s radio propaganda was far from simple.

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Italy’s Decade of War: 1935-45 in International Perspective

University of Strathclyde, 6-7 September 2016

Keynote speakers: 

Professor MacGregor Knox, London School of Economics

Professor Nicola Labanca, Università degli Studi di Siena

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Registration now openhttp://onlineshop.strath.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=2&deptid=157&catid=68&prodid=538

From the invasion of Abyssinia to the end of World War Two, Italy experienced a decade of war. This conference aims to re-evaluate the history of the Italian experience during this ten-year period with a unifying perspective that places the Italian Fascist regime and its foreign and military enterprises in an entirely internationalised framework of analysis.

Organisers: Dr Marco Maria Aterrano and Dr Karine Varley

Provisional Programme: Italy Decade War conference programme June version 2

The conference will include a Civic Reception and Conference Dinner at Glasgow City Chambers.

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‘Imprisoned in the Vatican’: Neutrality and the Challenges Facing the French Embassy to the Holy See in World War Two

Paper presented at ‘Embassies in Crisis’ conference, British Academy, 9 June 2016

Introduction

The case of the French embassy to the Holy See in the Second World War was very different to the other embassies being discussed today, given the particular character of the Vatican City State. But I’d like to suggest that it offers a significant example of an embassy in crisis, having to function in the challenging conditions of war, with French diplomats confined within the walls of Vatican City by the Italian state with which France was at war, unable to communicate directly with France, cut off from the outside world, and having to operate from temporary accommodation. The precarious status of the French embassy was made all the more acute by the very survival of Vatican City as an independent state being dependent upon Mussolini’s government observing the terms of the Lateran Treaty.

When war broke out in 1939, the Vatican had only existed as an independent state for ten years following the signing of the Lateran Treaty with the Italian Fascist government in 1929. As the smallest sovereign state with few economic and social interests and only a ceremonial army, many states questioned the worth of diplomatic representation there. With increasing international tensions in the late 1930s, however, the Holy See came to acquire great significance as a neutral intermediary and potential means of reaching and influencing Mussolini.

Italy’s declaration of war against France on 10 June 1940 left the embassy to the Holy See as the only French diplomats to remain in Italy until 1944. The embassy therefore found itself at the centre of important diplomatic manoeuvres between France and Italy. The problem was that the conditions and status of the Vatican left the embassy significantly circumscribed in its ability to operate. The ambassadors, Count Wladimir d’Ormesson, who served from late May 1940 until November 1940 and Leon Berard who served for the remainder of the war, were effectively imprisoned in Vatican City, forbidden from leaving by the Italian government.

The first section of what I’m going to discuss today looks at how the French embassy to the Holy See confronted the challenges of being an embassy to a neutral state located within an enemy state. The second looks at the French ambassador’s role in the attempts to pursue an alternative foreign policy with Italy to the one which culminated in Vichy’s collaboration with Nazi Germany.

Ambassador

Wladimir d’Ormesson was appointed ambassador to the Holy See in late May 1940. With German forces rapidly advancing into France and chaos in government, Foreign Minister Paul Reynaud recalled many of France’s leading diplomats, including Francois Charles-Roux who had been ambassador to the Holy See since 1932, to serve as general secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. D’Ormesson came from a family of diplomats and was well-connected within diplomatic and political circles, but was a journalist with no direct experience of working in foreign affairs. He left for Rome on 28 May 1940 and had his first private audience with Pope Pius XII on 9 June 1940, just a day before Italy declared war against France.

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Ambassador Wladimir d’Ormesson and Pope Pius XII

 

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Georges de Blesson, Ambassador Léon Bérard, François de Vial at an audience with Pope Pius XII

 

Embassy

Italy’s declaration of war meant that the French embassy to the Holy See had to leave Taverna Palace, which was on Italian territory in Rome, and move within the walls of Vatican City. Thereafter, the French ambassador was not permitted to leave Vatican City, unless granted special permission by the Italian government and had to be accompanied by Italian police. It was established practice for states to place restrictions upon an enemy state’s embassy at the outbreak of war, but these restrictions were the consequence of Italian encroachments upon the Vatican’s status as a sovereign, neutral state. Indeed, d’Ormesson was fully well that the Italians had placed a spy in the embassy posing as footman, and claimed that everything he said was passed on to the Fascist authorities.

It was normal practice that at times of war, there should be no contact between enemy missions so diplomats could not be accused of consorting with the enemy. But the conditions endured by foreign diplomats in Vatican City created a sense of shared experience that overrode diplomatic protocol. The embassies for all states that had ruptured relations with Italy were moved into the Santa Marta hostel. The first floor was occupied by the Polish ambassador, the second by the French, the third by the Belgian ambassador, and the fourth by the British Minister, D’Arcy Osborne. D’Ormesson had quickly struck up a friendship with Osborne when their countries had been allies, but the French surrender and the rupture in diplomatic relations following Mers-el-Kebir meant that the two ambassadors should have avoided contact. The French press claimed that the two men, who could not help but bump into each other on their shared staircase, would turn away from each other and even get into fights. In reality, however, D’Ormesson continued to have lunch with Osborne almost every day, a factor which contributed to him being recalled by Pierre Laval in October 1940.

The embassy was unable to communicate regularly or directly with France. With few outside visitors and little access to reliable information, it was also cut off from the outside world. With long periods with little to do, it was perhaps inevitable that the ambassador’s judgement became impaired. But rather than him ‘going native’, D’Ormesson’s reports and correspondence suggest that he became increasingly exasperated and frustrated by the gap between what he wanted to do and what he was able to do. We see this in his personal correspondence to Charles-Roux, where he expresses his ‘despair’ at the pope’s ‘passivity’.

Significance of Vatican for Vichy

Like many other governments during the war, Vichy sought the moral and political legitimacy of papal endorsement. Testifying in 1955, Berard described his approach as having been driven ‘by the feeling that France at such a time should maintain closer relations than ever with the high spiritual power from which so many nations sought approval or backing’.

The ideology of the Vichy regime made this particularly important. In the initial period after the defeat, Vichy’s National Revolution sought to roll back the secularisation of the Third Republic and revive notions of France as ‘eldest daughter of the Catholic Church’. D’Ormesson saw the Holy See as a particularly ‘precious’ asset for France as a Catholic country. The values and international status of the Catholic Church posed a challenge to the Italian Fascist government’s own political dogma and ambitions, so its presence in Rome as a rival source of authority benefited French interests.

Relations with Italy

Attempts by key figures within the Vichy government, especially Pierre Laval, to gain closer relations with the Nazis have tended to dominate historical accounts of this period. But in the summer and autumn of 1940, an alternative policy of seeking closer relations with Italy as a counterweight to Germany was being act pursued by Foreign Minister Paul Baudouin and Secretary-General to the Foreign Ministry, Francois Charles-Roux. They sought to isolate Germany by pursuing rapprochement with Italy, emphasising the historical bonds and shared interests of the two ‘Latin and Catholic’ countries.

The French embassy became critical to the realisation of the strategy in three ways. First, it enabled Vichy to have a source of information within Italy, with access to Italian diplomats and others in contact with the Fascist government. Second, it was critical to Baudouin and Charles-Roux’s desires to use the Holy See as intermediary to a recalcitrant Italian government. Third, it gave Vichy the possibility of using the Vatican’s position to reach the Italian people directly, appealing over the heads of the Fascist government and exploiting the pro-French tendencies of much of the population. Radio Vatican and the Vatican’s newspaper, Osservatore Romano, were the only media operating independently from the Fascist state within Italy.

The problem was, however, that communication difficulties with Vichy left d’Ormesson having to pursue this alone, even when he saw it was failing to have any effect upon the Italian government. He worked tirelessly to secure favourable coverage of developments in France on Vatican radio in the hope that the Italian people would hear it and pressurise their government into a change of policy towards France. He also regularly called upon Osservatore Romana to counter anti-French propaganda in the Fascist press in the hope that the Italian Catholic clergy would spread word in their communities.

Having a diplomatic presence at Vatican City also provided the opportunity for unofficial dialogue with elements of the Fascist regime more favourably disposed towards France than Mussolini. In July 1940, Professor Guido Mannacorda, a Catholic agent of the Fascist government proposed a secret meeting with d’Ormesson in the gardens of the Vatican in which he proposed that under the leadership of Mussolini, France and Italy could work together to offset the danger of German domination.

If ultimately, nothing came of the talks, without the embassy to the Holy See, there would have been no other forum for diplomatic activity between France and Italy.

Conclusion

The experiences of the French embassy to the Holy See in World War Two were highly unusual. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought to capitalise on the unique position of Vatican City as a neutral state located within the capital city of an enemy state to turn the embassy to the Holy See into a proxy embassy to Italy. But this dual role created tensions with the embassy’s legitimate remit in relation to the Holy See. Despite fulfilling their instructions, both d’Ormesson and Berard pushed back attempts by the Ministry to take this proxy role further, fearing that doing so risked jeopardising the survival of the embassy with repercussions from Italy and the Vatican.

The embassy’s isolation placed considerable onus on the ambassador to initiate and pursue diplomatic manoeuvres. While the other embassies confined within Vatican City were also cut off from their governments and the outside world, what was distinct about this case was that after 24 June 1940 France was neither at war nor peace with Italy but in a prolonged state of armistice. Elements within the Vichy government wanted rapprochement with Italy in which the Catholic heritage of the two countries would be at the heart of a Latin union that would counterbalance German domination. The absence of any other forum for diplomatic contact with Italy pushed the French embassy to the Holy See found to the forefront.

While it may not have had to face such dramatic crises as others, with no civilian population to deal with, the intense pressure brought about by confinement in the claustrophobic environment of the embassy should not be underestimated. We know from Owen Chadwick’s work that it took a toll on the mental and physical health of the British Minister. While his language may have been tinged by hyperbole, as he struggled make sense of the stark contrast between the grandeur and sanctity of the Vatican and the violence of the war being waged beyond its walls, d’Ormesson described his time at the embassy as having been nothing less than ‘torture’.

 

 

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Pétain and the Centenary of the Battle of Verdun in the First World War: A Discomforting Presence

The centenary of the First World War in France has raised a number of difficult and sometimes sensitive questions about how the nation should remember and commemorate the experiences that so profoundly shaped the country. 2016 sees the centenary of one of the most important battles for France, yet it also stirs up some uncomfortable memories associated with the Second World War.

The battle of Verdun is widely acknowledged to hold a particular place in French memory. Seen as a symbol of sacrifice and resilience, it soon came to be a defining reference-point for the French experience in the First World War, quickly gaining special status in the commemorations in the years that followed. Yet memories of the battle of Verdun were also inseparable from memories of the ‘hero of Verdun’, General Philippe Pétain. It raised the question of whether and how Pétain’s role should be commemorated.

The discovery that postcards of Pétain were on sale at Douaumont provoked shock, consternation and alarm on social media. The newly-opened Mémorial de Verdun responded with a formal statement that no images of Pétain would be on sale at the museum. However, in live-tweeting the events of the battle, the Memorial has not sought to airbrush Pétain from history. Indeed, Pétain’s role is covered in full, treated no differently to any other protagonist. Could this be an indication that France is finally coming to terms with the contradictory image of Pétain?

Offenstadt tweet

With the far-right Front National now an established element on the French political scene, and regular incidents of anti-Semitism, memories of Pétain and of the Vichy regime in the Second World War remain firmly entrenched in the nation’s political culture. Indeed, in 2014, extreme-right polemicist Eric Zemmour’s defence of Vichy’s record on the persecution of the Jews became a best-seller in France, prompting furious debate about the regime’s true historical record.

Here in the UK, a new play, entitled The Patriotic Traitor and written by Johnathan Lynn has recently sought to reopen the debate about Pétain and De Gaulle, who, as a young captain, was captured at Verdun. Starring Tom Conti as Pétain and Laurence Fox as General de Gaulle, the play asks which of the two men was the traitor in the Second World War, Petain for his collaboration with the Nazis or De Gaulle for ‘abandoning’ France for London. The play suggests that part of the tragedy of Pétain’s story is that he did the same in the two world wars. But whereas his actions made him a hero in the first, the same actions led him to be labelled a traitor in the second.

In military terms, the battle of Verdun is generally seen as not having been exceptional, but it was significant for the impact it had upon the French people. It was the first time since the Marne in 1914 that French forces truly feared a German breakthrough. According to Antoine Prost, French soldiers saw it as battle like no other, one in which they must not surrender, whatever the cost.

After the failures of General Nivelle, Pétain introduced a new system of rapid troop rotation, ensuring that men spent no more than eight days on the front line at a time. This eased the burden on soldiers, but it also meant that the numbers of men who fought there was high, creating the impression that the whole nation had served at Verdun. In the years that followed, Verdun became for many politicians, artists, journalists and writers the battle that one had to have experienced. The town itself was awarded the Légion d’honneur by President Raymond Poincaré on 12 September 1916, and with the construction of the Douaumont ossuary and military cemeteries after the war, soon became a site of pilgrimage. The myth of Pétain as the ‘hero of Verdun’ soon developed, its lasting power over the French people symbolised by the trust many placed in the aged marshal when he claimed to be saving France once again in June 1940.

This year’s official centenary commemorations, scheduled for 29 May 2016, will focus upon Franco-German reconciliation, and will be led by President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But with France facing ongoing challenges following the terrorist attacks of 2015, the French government’s hopes of evoking the spirit of ‘sacred union’ that supposedly held the country together through the First World War seem unlikely. In many respects, the divisive legacy of Pétain and what he represented lives on.

 

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Call for Papers: Relations between Britain and France at the end of World War Two: Cooperation and Reconstruction

Relations between Britain and France at the end of World War Two:
Cooperation and Reconstruction

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Provisional Programme: Workshop programme

Workshop: 6 May 2016, Institute of Historical Research, London

Workshop convenors: Dr Rogelia Pastor-Castro and Dr Karine Varley, University of Strathclyde

This workshop will explore the roles played by the UK and France in European reconstruction at the end of World War Two and the changing nature of Franco-British cooperation in the face of new international challenges. It will reflect upon how the UK and France responded to the challenges of humanitarian relief efforts, refugees, displaced persons, occupation of defeated countries, rebuilding democratic institutions and how the experiences of World War Two helped forge a new relationship between the two allies. It will seek to place UK-French relations in Europe in an international framework of relations with the United States, the Soviet Union and the British and French colonial empires.

Possible topics may include:

  • Responses to the humanitarian crisis
  • Policy towards defeated Germany and Italy
  • Rebuilding democracy in Europe
  • UK-French cooperation in an international framework

We invite proposals for 20 minute papers on any aspect of the workshop theme. Please send paper proposals with an abstract of 250-300 words and one-page CV to Dr Karine Varley: Karine.Varley@strath.ac.uk by 18 March 2016.

The workshop is part of a wider two-year project funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh on ‘Relations between Britain and France in World War Two’, led by Dr Rogelia Pastor-Castro and Dr Karine Varley, University of Strathclyde.

About the Network

The network will explore the tensions, influences and experiences that shaped and defined the relationship between the UK and France during World War Two. As allies in the First World War and as states with similar democratic traditions, levels of military and economic strength and global interests, the relationship between Britain and France was critical to the survival and future of both countries. The network will engage closely with officials from the foreign policy community, including serving and past diplomats, the Foreign Office, as well as French and British defence policy-making and military staff.

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Relations between Britain and France in World War Two

I am currently working on a two-year Royal Society of Edinburgh Network on ‘Relations between Britain and France in World War Two’, with Dr Rogelia Pastor-Castro.

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The Network

 The network will contribute substantially to understanding the wider long-term significance of the relationship forged between the UK and France during the Second World War. It will inform current debates about contemporary international, diplomatic, military and security challenges, offering a source of expertise to interested stakeholders.

The central theme of the network is to explore the tensions, influences and experiences that shaped and defined the relationship between the UK and France during the war. As allies in the First World War and as states with similar democratic traditions, levels of military and economic strength and global interests, the relationship between Britain and France was critical to the survival and future of both countries. The network’s distinctiveness lies in its close engagement with officials from the foreign policy community, including serving and past diplomats, the Foreign Office, as well as French and British defence policy-making and military staff.

Aims

  1. To challenge existing historical approaches to the Second World War by engaging in research relevant to contemporary international challenges.
  2. To promote more effective engagement between historians of Franco-British relations and those involved in diplomatic relations and foreign policy, developing knowledge exchange activities with diplomats and officials from the foreign policy community to better inform policy-making.
  3. To develop new understandings of the history of Franco-British relations at times of war in light of the 2010 Lancaster House Treaties on defence and security cooperation between the UK and France.
  4. To promote debate about Franco-British cooperation by exploring how the two states responded to the challenges of reconstruction at the end of the Second World War, including humanitarian relief efforts, refugees, displaced persons, the occupation of defeated countries and rebuilding democratic institutions.
  5. To connect historians working in the fields of transnational, international, diplomatic, intelligence and military history in order to develop more nuanced understandings and methodologies.
  6. To explore the wider implications for Scotland of the historical and contemporary challenges of Franco-British military cooperation.
  7. To develop the next stage in a wider project on Britain and France in War and Peace that includes a major international conference on ‘France and the Second World War in Global Perspective, 1919-45’ at the University of Strathclyde in July 2015 and a colloquium on ‘Britain and France in World War Two’ at the British Embassy in Paris in October 2015, hosted by the British Ambassador to France.

Key questions:

  1. How were Franco-British relations shaped by the experiences of the Second World War?
  2. In what ways might historians’ understanding of diplomatic relations be informed by engaging with serving and past diplomats, and how might officials from the foreign policy community benefit from working with historians?
  3. How did the experiences of the war shape the cultural dispositions and world views of French and British diplomats?
  4. In what ways did experiences such as the fall of France in 1940 shape British and French perceptions of each other’s capabilities as Cold War allies and fellow NATO member states in the postwar period?
  5. To what extent were Franco-British relations during the war shaped by their colonial interests?
  6. How did the experiences of war inform British and French responses to the challenges of postwar European reconstruction and the occupation of defeated countries after 1945?

 

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Call for Papers: Italy’s Decade of War: 1935-45 in International Perspective

University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, 6-7 September 2016

Deadline extended to 31 March 2016

Keynote speakers

Professor MacGregor Knox, London School of Economics

Professor Nicola Labanca, Università degli Studi di Siena

Mussolini image

From the invasion of Abyssinia to the end of World War II, Italy experienced a decade of war. This conference aims to re-evaluate the history of the Italian experience during this ten-year period with a unifying perspective that places the Italian Fascist regime and its foreign and military enterprises in an entirely internationalised framework of analysis. It will bring an international focus upon the Italian role in the breakdown of the international system and appeasement, and will analyse the consequences of Italian militarism on a global scale. It will explore comparative and transnational histories of the Italian occupations of France, the Balkans, Greece, and Albania, as well as the Allied occupation of Italy following the defeat.

The conference will place particular emphasis upon the significance of the Mediterranean region in the wider history of the Second World War, exploring the broader implications of Italy’s actions in Africa and the Middle East. It will also look at Italian diplomatic, military and economic relations with Britain, the United States, and Nazi Germany, as well as those with other states such as Vichy France and Spain.

 

After receiving a high number of submissions, we are issuing this second call for papers to invite in particular proposals on topics that have been neglected or under-explored in the first call.

We particularly welcome papers on:

  • Italian Fascism’s ideology and militarism
  • Italy’s role in appeasement
  • Italian neutrality
  • Italy’s relations with the League of Nations
  • Italian relations with Germany and France
  • Italy’s political and military role in the Middle East and North Africa
  • Foreign Fighters and Resistance
  • Experiences of the Italian diaspora in enemy states

 

Possible topics might also include:

  • The Abyssinian crisis and its regional consequences
  • Italy’s geopolitical revisionism in the Mediterranean
  • Italian Fascist military participation in the Spanish Civil War
  • The war in the Mediterranean
  • Italian occupations in World War Two
  • The Allied occupation of Italy, 1943-45
  • Memories and representations of Italy’s decade of war

 

This conference aims to bring together scholars working in the fields of military, political, diplomatic, international, colonial, transnational, and comparative history, and encourages inter-disciplinary contributions. The conference organisers aim to publish selected papers in an edited volume and a journal special issue.

We invite proposals for 20-25 minute papers on any aspect of the conference theme. Proposals for panels of two or three papers are particularly welcome. Paper proposals should comprise an abstract of 250-300 words and a one-page CV in a single pdf file in English.

Please send proposals to Dr Marco Maria Aterrano and Dr Karine Varley at italywarconference@gmail.com by 31 March 2016.

Twitter: #ItalyDecadeWar

Conference website: http://www.strath.ac.uk/humanities/schoolofhumanities/newsevents/italysdecadeofwar1935-45ininternationalperspective/

The conference will include a Civic Reception and conference dinner at Glasgow City Chambers (pictured below).

IMG_1710

Conference Flyer – Italy’s Decade of War 1935-45

Italy CFP

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