Call for Papers: European "domestic fronts": the home front at war (1914-1920)

RHN 36/2015 | Call

Organising committee: Laurent Dornel (UPPA-ITEM), Laurent Jalabert (UPPA-ITEM), Stéphane Le Bras (Univ.Blaise-Pascal Clermont-Ferrand-CHEC), Josette Pontet (Société des Sciences Lettres et Arts de Bayonne), Jean-François Vergez (ONAC.64)

19-20 November 2015, Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour, France

Deadline: 4 May 2015


International conference
European “domestic fronts”:
the home front at war (1914-1920)

With a few exceptions, relatively little attention has been paid in the (French) historiography to the question of the home front. Apart from a few seminal studies, this “other front” has to a large extent been neglected. For France, where most of the fighting on the Western front took place, the home front corresponded to the “interior zone”: a space outside the “armed forces zone” where there were no military operations against the enemy but which was however caught up in the logic of total war. The home front was therefore a vast space linked symbolically, politically, emotionally and economically to the territories where the fighting was taking place or which had been occupied by the enemy.

Thus, as a place to seek refuge or healing, mourn the dead or find new strength, the home front played an important role in the war, though in its own specific ways and at its own specific pace. In fact, while most historical study focuses on the wartime period and the changing fates of the belligerent powers, the history of the home front includes the immediate post-war period because of the profound impact of returning combatants and prisoners and of the various ways in which the return to peace was implemented.

In this respect, while military mobilizations have been the object of a substantial volume of research, the mobilizations which took place within the civilian societies of the European countries affected by the war still represent a subject which is at the same time vast and only partly explored. Several approaches could be suggested, beginning with the very notion of the home front. What is there in common between the “front intérieur”– a term which in France has progressively replaced that of the “arrière” – and the home front in Britain, the Italian fronte interno or even the German Heimatfront? For the belligerent colonial Empire States, how were the metropolitan “home front” and the colonial “home front” connected? And within these home fronts, what were the forms and spaces in which the civilian populations was mobilized? For example, to what extent did the conflict redefine the dialectic between local and national identities? If the home front was at one with the front proper and mobilized to take part in the war (some historians have referred to a “martial investment” of civilian societies at war), was it not also the refuge of the “embusqués”, soldiers who in one way or another were able to spend the duration of the war away from the dangers and discomforts of the front? And was it not affected by forms of resistance or even opposition to the war? Finally, did exchanges between the front and the rear contribute to the construction of cultures of war which were shared by the vast majority?

Beyond representations, this conference will seek more generally to analyse social practices and transformations and the place and role of the home front during the conflict and also in the months after it ended (demobilization, reconstruction, …). The debate could usefully be organized around the following three themes (which are neither mutually exclusive nor exhaustive):

  • Circulations between the front and the rear and within the home front (innovations, production and distribution of supplies, capital, letters, migrations of the workforce, place of refugees, etc.);
  • Mobilisations of people, minds, economies and distant territories; and also “non-mobilisation”/resistance/refusal to mobilize. Papers on the day-to-day administration of the war will be especially welcome: requisitions, restrictions and shortages, organization of food and other supplies, the black market, the role of local administrations (the town halls and mayors in France), philanthropic societies, etc.;
  • Transformations of landscapes, societies, social relationships (between local and “outside” populations, between bosses and workers, between generations, etc.), of identities (local, regional, national or imperial), of cultural and religious practices, of people’s personal lives, of relations between centres and periphery, etc. Proposals on the rural experiences of war will be particularly welcome.


This conference, which will form the basis of a publication, intends to be resolutely interdisciplinary, comparative and open to the wider European dimension. The call for papers is addressed to both confirmed researchers and PhD students. The working languages will be French and English. Proposals (2500 characters max., accompanied by a short CV including publications) should be sent by 4 May 2015 to

The scientific committee will announce its decisions by early July 2015.

Scientific committee: Nicolas Beaupré (Univ. Blaise-Pascal Clermont-Ferrand – Institut Universitaire de France), François Buton (CNRS-CEPEL Montpellier), Emmanuelle Cronier (Université de Picardie Jules-Verne), Franzisca Heimburger (EHESS-Paris, CRH), Elise Julien (Sciences Po Lille – IRHIS UMR CNRS/Lille 3), Gerd Krumeich (professeur émérite à l’université Heinrich-Heine de Düsseldorf, professeur associé à l’IHTP), Jenny MacLeod (University of Hull), Nicolas Mariot (CNRS – CESSP, UMR 8209), Jessica Meyer (University of Leeds), Nicolas Patin (Université Bordeaux-Montaigne) Antoine Prost (Professeur émérite, Université Paris 1-Sorbonne), Pierre Purseigle (The University of Warwick, Coventry), Clémentine Vidal-Naquet (Université Paris IV-Sorbonne).