Prof Kevin Passmore
The Maginot Line in History, Culture and Memory
This project is supported by a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship, 2014-17 and by A British Academy and Leverhulme Trust Personal Research Grant
In the 1930s, the French government built an enormously expensive line of fortifications - the Maginot Line - along its frontier with Germany. Notoriously, in the summer of 1940, a lightening German attack through Belgium outflanked the Maginot Line, and within a few weeks France had been defeated. The fortifications seemed to be an irrelevance, a symbol of military myopia and refusal to look the imperatives of the modern world in the face. However, although the fortifications saw little fighting, they were enormously important strategically, socially and culturally not only in France, but internationally. Consequently, the Maginot Line represents an ideal focus for an interdisciplinary study and it provides a window into French and European history. The project is organised around seven themes: (1). The social, intellectual and cultural context of military strategy (2) fortification as part of a project to 'organise' French society, ensuring the ability of the state to structure the 'formless mass' (3) the significance and consequences of building the defences of the nation in a German-speaking region in which separatist feeling was strong (4) the Maginot line in the transnational context (5) the relationship between aesthetics (e.g. Art deco, Le Corbusier's modernism), military design and strategy (6) the history of everyday military life (7) the Maginot Line in memory.
Democratic Century: Democracy, Majorities, and Pluralism in Europe since 1880 (Oxford: Oxford University Press)
Democratic Century will trace the meanings and of the term 'democracy' and ask what was at stake in it use in a period in which the word has been harnessed to liberal democracy, Soviet popular democracy, the Nazi’s Teutonic Democracy’, nationalism, socialism and more. The book will break with the national comparative logic of many histories of Europe; it will show that the nation-state was only one of the frameworks within which people organized their actions, and was the most important in only particular contexts. At other times, frameworks larger than the nation (economies, religions, ideologies) or smaller (family, region) were more significant to people in the past.
Conference: Political violence in interwar Europe, 1918-1940
From confrontations during strikes to the street battles of extremist groups, violence was a feature of interwar European politics. As countries entered an age of mass politics, governments searched for ways to integrate their peoples into the political system. Yet violence as a means of political expression and engagement persisted, even in democratic nations. Violent political conflict preceded the establishment of fascist regimes in Italy and Germany, and civil war in Spain. In Eastern Europe, the collapse of empire and the founding of new nation-states gave rise to violent political struggle. In France and Britain, street fighting and rioting raised fears over the breakdown of order in the western democracies. State authorities could respond with implicit approval directed at enemies or with force, especially in colonial territories. Groups that resorted to violence were often part of broader international political phenomenon and organisations such as Communism and Fascism. The development of the ideas and practices of such groups was subject to transfers across national boundaries. Yet most existing histories tend to focus on particular national contexts or countries where extremist governments came to power. Furthermore, accounts take either the left or the right as their subject, but say little about common practices and attitudes.
19-21 September 2012, Jointly organized with Chris Millington