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Different aspects of the African American experience during World War One have been covered since the release in 1974 of Florette Henri’s and Arthur E. Barbeau’s The Unknown Soldiers: African American Troops in World War I. All these studies concur in their assumptions that World War One opened up a new quest for full citizenships and galvanized soldiers and officers alike. A new era started right in the middle of the conflict fueling African American units with hope of change. World War One turned into the matrix for a new form of militancy. However, perhaps World War One did not only trigger a new form of militancy among African Americans. Something else might have snapped in African American (and perhaps African) leaders of the time. What if World War One had nurtured the awakening of a “colored manifest destiny”?
In January 1918, Teddy Brown from Fairbanks, Alaska, was coming home. As he entered the house, the ten-year-old boy slammed the door shut, stormed into the living room, and demanded that his parents put on their coats. Teddy solemnly proclaimed that he had heard harrowing stories about French children's sufferings and wanted to contribute a weekly donation of seventy-five cents in order to help “a brother” in France. After listening to his pleas, Teddy's parents eventually came to endorse his chosen mission. The family left the house, venturing out into the sub-zero temperatures, and headed to the local committee of the Fatherless Children of France Society (FCFS). By the time Teddy made his commitment, thousands of other American children had already “adopted” orphans in France.
A social history of Ireland (encompassing rural communities) is needed if historians are to fully come to terms with what really happened between 1914 and 1918 and to properly tackle the question of ‘consent’ and ‘constraint’ in relation to the war effort. In addition, historians need to devote a comprehensive book-length research to the April 1918 Conscription Crisis in Ulster (but more generally to the anti-conscription movement in Ulster), determining if the urban/rural – Belfast/countryside divide existed (and, if so, what its magnitude was). Finally, in a few years’ time, anyone will be able to say if the Republic of Ireland of today opted to anchor the global conflict in the collective memory of its people, or if the Centenary of the First World War was just a politically motivated parenthesis to commemorate a lost generation that still struggles to find its rightful place in modern Irish history.
Drawing on secret witness reports from Intelligence Officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and diplomatic correspondence from France’s representatives to Dublin and London, this article seeks to complement recent historiography and qualify our understanding of the period 1914–18 by engaging fully with the issue of compulsory military service from the outbreak of the conflict. It contemplates how fears of conscription contributed to the radicalisation of rural communities and demonstrates that opposition to conscription formed a solid political foundation for Sinn Féin. Britain’s determination to implement conscription to Ireland frightened civilian populations, gave rise to nationwide discontent, and attracted towards Sinn Féin populations likely to be drafted into the British Army. That study seeks to be a re-examination of the dynamics between the Irish revolution and the conscription scares and maintains that fears of compulsory service in Ireland significantly contributed to the victory of Sinn Féin candidates during the four electoral contests in 1917.
At the time when Irish veterans of the Great War were being demobilized, Ireland was in a period of profound social, political, and cultural change that was irreversibly transforming the island. Armistice and the veterans’ relief at having survived the conflict and being back with family could not eclipse the overwhelming political climate they met on their homecoming. This article draws on the 1929 Report by the Committee on Claims of British Ex-servicemen, commissioned by the Irish Free State to investigate whether Irish veterans were discriminated against by the Southern Irish and British authorities. The research also makes use of a range of underexploited primary sources: the Liaison and Evacuation Papers in the Military Archives in Dublin, the collection of minutes of the Irish Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Land Trust in the National Archives in London, and original material from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and the National Archives of Ireland relating to economic programs for veterans. A comparative approach of to the respective demobilizations of veterans in Northern and Southern Ireland in the 1920s reveals that disparities in formal recognition of their sacrifice and in special provision for housing and employment significantly and painfully complicated their repatriation.
In order better to understand the impact of political unrest in Ireland on Irish troops fighting in the First World War, it is necessary to acknowledge that the role of the 1916 Rising has been significantly overestimated, while the influence of the 1914 home rule crisis and the repercussions of the anti-conscription movement have been underestimated. The 1914 home rule crisis significantly impacted on the Germans’ view of the Irish and conditioned the treatment of Irish P.O.W.s from December 1914 onwards. In addition, the post-1916 Rising executions and the conscription crisis had a severe impact on Irish front-line units, while also sapping the morale of other British combatants. The 1916 Rising might have been dismissed as a military operation conceived by a handful of republicans, with little support from the wider population, but the conscription crisis brought about widespread defiance towards British rule throughout the whole of nationalist Ireland. In line with British public opinion, British front-line officers and men strongly resented Ireland’s refusal to support the war effort at such a crucial moment. The consequence was the widespread targeting and stigmatisation of their Irish comrades-in-arms. Some British officers and men resorted to a form of psychological pressure, aimed at the public shaming of Irish troops. This article draws on new primary sources available at The National Archives in London, Dublin City Archives and University of Leeds Library to argue that the 1916 Rising was not the only political event in Ireland to have repercussions for Irish battalions fighting in the First World War.
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