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Geographies of Mobilization and Territories of Belligerence during the First World War

  • Olivier Compagnon (a1) and Pierre Purseigle (a2)


The global history of the First World War is still in its early stages. This article proposes to contribute to its development by “de-Europeanizing” the historiography of the conflict and suggesting some of the ways scholars can move beyond “centers” and “peripheries” to combine different spatial scales of analysis. First, it demonstrates the need to look beyond the European theaters of the war and investigate spaces hitherto deemed to be marginal: despite their distance from the epicenter of the combat, these regions were traversed by tensions directly linked to the conflict and witnessed major transformations between 1914 and 1918. Second, it invites researchers to focus on elements such as the environment, natural resources, or diasporas, which make it possible to break out of a national framework of analysis and to do justice to the global impact of the Great War. This twofold approach underlines the value of a new geography of mobilization and belligerence, one that matches the diversity of experiences and reflects the truly global dimension of the First World War.

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29. For Mexico and Argentina, see Schneider, Ingrid Schulze, “La propaganda alemana en México durante la Primera Guerra Mundial,” Anuario del Departamento de Historia 5 (1993): 261–72; and Tato, María Inés, “Luring Neutrals: Allied and German Propaganda in Argentina during the First World War,” in World War I and Propaganda, ed. Paddock, Troy R. E., (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 322–44.

30. The best documented cases are those of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, which received the great bulk of European migration between the 1870s and 1914. See Luebke, Frederick C., Germans in Brazil: A Comparative History of Cultural Conflict during World War I (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987); Franzina, Emilio, “La guerra lontana. Il primo conflitto mondiale e gli italiani d'Argentina,” Estudios migratorios latinoamericanos 15, no. 44 (2000): 5784, in particular pp. 66–73; Franzina, , “Italiani del Brasile ed italobrasiliani durante il Primo Conflitto Mondiale (1914–1918),” História. Debates e tendências 5, no. 1 (2004): 225–67; Cuenca, Álvaro, La colonia británica de Montevideo y la Gran Guerra (Montevideo: Torre del Vigía Editores, 2006); Otero, Hernán, La guerra en la sangre. Los Franco-Argentinos ante la Primera Guerra Mundial (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 2009); Tato, María Inés, “El llamado de la patria. Británicos e Italianos residentes en la Argentina frente a la Primera Guerra Mundial,” Estudios migratorios latinoamericanos 25, no. 71 (2011): 273–92; Tato, , “Germanófilos versus aliadófilos. La colonia española de Buenos Aires frente a las polarizaciones de la Gran Guerra,” in Las grandes guerras del siglo xx y la comunidad española de Buenos Aires, ed. de Cristóforis, Nadia Andrea and Tato, María Inés (Buenos Aires: Facultad de filosofía y letras de la universidad de Buenos Aires, 2015), 1543 .

31. Compagnon, Olivier, “1914–18: The Death Throes of Civilization. The Elites of Latin America Face the Great War,” in Uncovered Fields: Perspectives in First World War Studies, ed. Macleod, Jenny and Purseigle, Pierre (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 279–95; Tato, María Inés, “The Latin American Intellectual Field in the Face of the First World War: An Initial Approach,” in A Civil War of Words: The Cultural Impact of the Great War in Catalonia, Spain, Europe and a Glance at Latin America, ed. Pla, Xavier, Fuentes, Maximiliano, and Montero, Francesc (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2015).

32. Gallardo, Freddy Vivas, “Venezuela y la Primera Guerra Mundial. De la neutralidad al compromiso (octubre 1914–marzo 1919),” Revista de la Facultad de ciencias jurídicas y políticas 61 (1981): 113–33; Rausch, Jane M., Colombia and World War I: The Experience of a Neutral Latin American Nation during the Great War and Its Aftermath, 1914–1921 (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014); Rausch, , “Venezuela's Neutrality during the Great War: The Consolidation of the Gómez Dictatorship between 1914 and 1918,” The Latin Americanist 59, no. 1 (2015): 6176 ; Orozco, Adriana Ortega and Robinet, Romain, “‘Nous les Latino-Américains, nous qui n'avons ni canons ni cuirassés.’ Les élites du Mexique révolutionnaire face à la Grande Guerre,” Vingtième Siècle. Revue d'histoire 125, no. 1 (2015): 105–20.

33. Leonhard, Jörn, Die Büchse der Pandora: Geschichte des Ersten Weltkrieges (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2014).

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39. On the case of Brazil, which entered the war on October 26, 1917, and had been a traditional ally of Washington in Latin America since the start of the twentieth century, see Vinhosa, Francisco Luiz Teixeira, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial. A diplomacia e as grandes potências (Rio de Janeiro: Ibge, 1990).

40. For Spain, see Salvadó, Francisco J. Romero, Spain, 1914–1918: Between War and Revolution (London: Routledge, 1999); and Codera, Maximiliano Fuentes, España en la Primera Guerra Mundial. Una movilización cultural (Madrid: Akal, 2014). For Argentina, see Weinmann, Ricardo, Argentina en la Primera Guerra Mundial. Neutralidad, transición política y continuismo económico (Buenos Aires: Editorial Biblos/Fundación Simón Rodríguez, 1994).

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57. Compagnon, Olivier, L'adieu à l'Europe. L'Amérique latine et la Grande Guerre, Argentine et Brésil, 1914–1939 (Paris: Fayard, 2013).

58. This point was extensively demonstrated on the occasion of the colloquium “Patriotic Cultures during the First World War,” organized by Boris Kolonitskii and Laura Engelstein and held in 2014 at the European University of Saint Petersburg. See also Langewiesche, Dieter, “Gefühlsraum Nation. Eine Emotionsgeschichte der Nation, die Grenzen zwischen öffentlichem und privatem Gefühlsraum nicht einebnet,” Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft 15, no. 1 (2012): 195215 .

59. Stefan Goebel, “Forging the Industrial Home Front: Iron-Nail Memorials in the Ruhr,” and Pierre Purseigle, “Beyond and below the Nations: Towards a Comparative History of Local Communities at War,” both in Macleod and Purseigle, Uncovered Fields, respectively pp. 159–78 and 95–123.

60. Billig, Michael, Banal Nationalism (London: Sage, 1995).

61. Purseigle, Pierre, Mobilisation, sacrifice, et citoyenneté. Angleterre-France, 1900–1918 (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2013).

62. Burton, Antoinette, ed., After the Imperial Turn: Thinking with and through the Nation (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003).

63. On the soldiers’ return and the military and cultural questions raised by demobilization, see “ Démobilisations culturelles après la Grande Guerre,” ed. Horne, John, special issue, 14–18. Aujourd'hui, Today, Heute 5 (2002); Cabanes, Bruno, La victoire endeuillée. La sortie de guerre des soldats français, 1918–1920 (Paris: Éd. du Seuil, 2004); Edele, Mark and Gerwarth, Robert, “The Limits of Demobilization: Global Perspectives on the Aftermath of the Great War,” Journal of Contemporary History 50, no. 1 (2015): 314 .

64. Baron, Nick and Gatrell, Peter, eds., Homelands: War, Population and Statehood in Eastern Europe and Russia, 1918–1924 (London: Anthem Press, 2004).

65. Sanborn, Imperial Apocalypse; Lohr, Eric, “The Russian Army and the Jews: Mass Deportation, Hostages and Violence during World War I,” Russian Review 60, no. 3 (2001): 404–19; Lohr, Eric and Üngör, Uğur Ümit, “Economic Nationalism, Confiscation and Genocide: A Comparison of the Ottoman and Russian Empires during World War I,” Journal of Modern European History 12, no. 4 (2014): 500522 .

66. Dominique Kirchner Reill, “Rebel Law: Fiume/Rijeka and the Dissolution of the Habsburg Empire” (paper presented at Yale University's international history seminar, February 25, 2014).

67. Lewis, Mary Dewhurst, Divided Rule: Sovereignty and Empire in French Tunisia, 1881–1938 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013); Lewis, , “Geographies of Power: The Tunisian Civic Order, Jurisdictional Politics, and Imperial Rivalry in the Mediterranean, 1881–1935,” Journal of Modern History 80, no. 4 (2008): 791830 .

68. Fogarty, Richard S. and Killingray, David, “Demobilization in British and French Africa at the End of the First World War,” Journal of Contemporary History 50, no. 1 (2015): 100123 .

69. Dickinson, Frederick R., War and National Reinvention: Japan in the Great War, 1914–1919 (Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 1999).

70. Frederick R. Dickinson, , World War I and the Triumph of a New Japan, 1919–1930 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

71. Weitz, Eric D., Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007).

72. Dickinson, Frederick R., “Toward a Global Perspective of the Great War: Japan and the Foundations of a Twentieth-Century World,” American Historical Review 119, no. 4 (2014): 1154–83.

73. Sturfelt, Lina, Eldens återsken: första världskriget i svensk föreställningsvärld (Lund: Sekel, 2008).

74. Needell, Jeffrey D., A Tropical Belle Epoque: Elite Culture and Society in Turn-of-the-Century Rio de Janeiro (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

75. Luebke, Germans in Brazil; Compagnon, L'adieu à l'Europe.

76. On Latin America and the League of Nations, see Fischer, Thomas, Die Souveränität der Schwachen. Lateinamerika und der Völkerbund, 1920–1936 (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2012); McPherson, Alan and Wehrli, Yannick, eds., Beyond Geopolitics: New Histories of Latin America at the League of Nations (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2015); Segura, Jorge Rhenán, La Sociedad de las Naciones y la política centroamericana, 1919–1939 (San José: Euroamericana de Ediciones, 1993); Llairó, María de Monserrat and Siepe, Raimundo, Argentina en Europa. Yrigoyen y la Sociedad de las Naciones, 1918–1920 (Buenos Aires: Macchi, 1997); and Garcia, Eugênio Vargas, O Brasil e a Liga das Nações, 1919–1926. Vencer ou não perder (Porto Alegre: Editora da universidade federal do Rio Grande do Sul, 2000).

77. To borrow the expression of the Brazilian historian Tota, Antonio Pedro, O imperialismo sedutor. A americanização do Brasil na época da Segunda Guerra (São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2000).

78. Kern, Stephen, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880–1918 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003).

79. Kühne, Thomas, “Colonialism and the Holocaust: Continuities, Causations and Complexities,” Journal of Genocide Research 15, no. 3 (2013): 339–62.

This article was translated from the French by Ethan Rundell and edited by Chloe Morgan and Nicolas Barreyre.

Geographies of Mobilization and Territories of Belligerence during the First World War

  • Olivier Compagnon (a1) and Pierre Purseigle (a2)


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