Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: Words of War in Europe
Jordan Hayworth, Air Command and Staff College
Robert Whalen, Queens University of Charlotte
Participant's Paper Title: Neither Victims nor Executioners' - Albert Camus and France in 1945 - from Resistance to Vengeance to National Reconciliation
Participant's Paper Abstract: Starting an unconventional war is hard; waging it is harder; ending it is the hardest thing of all. Non-linear wars often involve non-state combatants and states cannot simply order those combatants to stand-down. Asymmetrical wars often spill over international borders; even if one state ends the conflict, it might well continue uninterrupted next-door. Worst of all, unconventional wars typically tumble into civil war and civil wars are notorious breeders of unending vendettas. How, then, can unconventional wars be ended? This paper will consider one of the most studied 'shadow' wars of modern times, the French resistance to German occupation during the Second World War. The French resistance involved both an underground struggle against the German occupier and an equally vicious war of ambush and assassination between the French Resistance and the French 'milice,' Vichy France's security service. This paper will focus especially on the last few months of this struggle and the first few months of peace. It will consider the ways the victorious Resistance moved from a violent épuration, that is, 'purge,' of 'collaborators' - in which perhaps as many of 10,000 alleged collaborators were executed - to something approaching national reconciliation. Albert Camus will be central to this discussion. Essayist, novelist, dramatist, and social critic, during the war, Camus was a resistant and editor of the underground resistance newspaper, Combat. At war's end, Camus fiercely demanded vengeance against collaborators and Vichyites, but Camus publicly changed his mind, and called for an end to the purges. While Camus' personal concerns will play a role in this discussion, this paper will focus on his political arguments and the context in which they were made. This focus on France in the mid-1940s will shed light on France, post-war Europe and on the vexing issue of ending unconventional wars.
Carson Teuscher, Church History Department - LDS
Participant's Paper Title: Forgotten Fronts: The Significance of Scarified Europe in the Aftermath of World War I
Participant's Paper Abstract: It would never be the same. Immaculate, undamaged Europe, gleeful travelers crisscrossing the open expanses of France and Belgium, a historic panorama preserved in bucolic memory. Those were but halcyon days of yesteryear. 'We began to see evidences of the destructiveness of war,' wrote Sarah Cannon, a wide-eyed tourist from faraway Utah, 'as far as the eye can reach, not a square yard of ground can be seen which has not been torn by shells.' She visited the battlefields of France in 1927, nine years after the end of fighting. 'One is almost terror-stricken,' she wrote, describing Verdun, 'Within a few miles of this insignificant and heretofore unknown village twice as many people as there are in all of Utah were killed.' No, it would never be the same. The soldiers affirmed it, books reiterated it, and judging Sarah Cannon's observations, civilians could plainly see it. Seeing the battlefield in its original state was unforgettable for Sarah Cannon, who testified, 'after going over the fields, any description [of battle], no matter how lurid, must fall short of reality.' As large-scale, multinational armed conflicts fade into the immemorial past, the physical significance of a battlefield in the immediate aftermath of a conflict has become an underappreciated element of military history. From King George V's 1922 pilgrimage to Sarah Cannon's visit and beyond, this paper delves into the silent testimony of scarified Europe, battlefield visits, and their impact on civilians, literature, culture, and memory in the interwar period. While much emphasis has been given to soldier accounts of the conflict between 1914-1918, photos, testimonials, and literature from those visiting the same fields of death in the interwar period (1918-1939) will add color and value to our own memory of the Great War still evident in the landscape one hundred years on.
Benjamin Lukas, University of Toronto
Participant's Paper Title: Writing of War: The Construction of a Martial Ethos Through the Writings of French Noblemen
Participant's Paper Abstract: For France, the sixteenth century was one of nearly continuous warfare. From its repeated attempts to gain control of territories in Italy and the Low Country to its cycle of religious wars, the kingdom repeatedly found itself in conflict with other states and itself. Throughout these wars a small portion of the nobility served as both officers and combatants, adapting to the changing nature of warfare across the period. The memoirs, biographies, and military treatises written by some of these men offer us not only a unique understanding of how they viewed their and their fellow noblemen's role in French society but also allows us to understand their fears and concerns. While France achieved some major victories during this period, they also were repeatedly driven out of Italy and the Low Country, lost many of their military leaders in battle, and suffered thirty-three years of civil war. These sources highlight the fear of defeat among these authors and their desire to share their knowledge and experience with the next generation. By disseminating their experiences through memoirs, military treatises, or biographies of men they fought alongside, these authors were attempting to share the knowledge needed for France to succeed in combat. The civil wars did not substantially alter this goal. Their aim was similar although it shifted in some cases to try to educate their children on how to survive as militarily active members of the nobility in a divided kingdom. The shared ethos across all of these sources demonstrate an attempt by the authors to create a new martial ethos based on military experience, one better suited to the changing nature of warfare than medieval chivalry could provide.

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