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The ‘Culture de guerre’ and French Historiography of the Great War of 1914–1918

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Abstract

Since the late 1980s, the historiography of the Great War of 1914–1918 has experienced something of a renaissance, particularly among French historians and historians influenced by French historiography. Scholarship has centered around the notion of ‘war culture’ (culture de guerre), defined as the sum total of the means through which contemporaries understood the conflict and persuaded themselves to continue fighting it. This article focuses on two aspects of the culture de guerre– consent, a form of commitment to prevailing in the conflict that deepened with adversity; and brutalization, the ferocity with which contemporaries fought the war in ways often overlooked by previous historiography. The article concludes with a consideration of some of the critics of the culture de guerre.

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