The experience of occupation in the Nord, 1914– 18

Living with the enemy in First World War France

James E. Connolly
Search for other papers by James E. Connolly in
Current site
Google Scholar

This study considers the ways in which locals of the occupied Nord responded to and understood their situation across four years of German domination, focusing in particular on key behaviours adopted by locals, and the way in which such conduct was perceived. Behaviours examined include forms of complicity, misconduct, disunity, criminality, and resistance. This local case study calls into question overly-patriotic readings of this experience, and suggests a new conceptual vocabulary to help understand certain civilian behaviours under military occupation.

Drawing on extensive primary documentation – from diaries and letters to posters and police reports – this book proposes that a dominant ‘occupied culture’ existed among locals. This was a moral-patriotic framework, born of both pre-war socio-cultural norms and daily interaction with the enemy, that guided conduct and was especially concerned with what was considered acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Those who breached the limits of this occupied culture faced criticism and sometimes punishment. This study attempts to disentangle perceptions and reality, but also argues that the clear beliefs and expectations of the occupied French comprise a fascinating subject of study in their own right. They provide an insight into national and local identity, and especially the way in which locals understood their role within the wider conflict.

This book will be useful to undergraduates, post-graduates and academics interested in an understudied aspect of the history of modern France, the First World War, and military occupations.


‘[an] immensely valuable, well written, exhaustively documented book. James E. Connolly has shown how important it is to illuminate the history of those who acted not only with dignity, but also the many who disrupted and deteriorated France’s social fabric during a time of national crisis.
H-France Review

‘James E. Connolly’s [book] is a well-crafted study of the German occupation in the Nord during World War I. It argues against using World War II histories of occupation for understanding the experience of occupation in the Great War. It shows how the range of civilian responses were shaped by social class, as well as by regional, religious and gender differences. Finally, it illuminates the “culture of occupation”—a  moral-patriotic framework—that emerged in the process. Using a wealth of archival and printed sources, this sophisticated study contributes to a better understanding of the war “behind the lines.”
Eugen Weber Book Prize - Honorable Mention
January 2020

‘James Connolly provides an important new investigation into the French experience of German occupation in the First World War. Based on impressive archival research, this book brings to light findings that revise our understanding of the war's impact on northern France and is an essential read for anyone interested in French and First World War history.
Heather Jones, Professor of Modern and Contemporary European History, University College London
February 2020

‘Connolly’s monograph does more than just make this history accessible to those who do not read French; he uses original and thoughtful archival research to challenge and deepen the French historiography [...] Connolly’s strong suit is his diligent, breathtakingly detailed archival work [...] This gives The Experience of Occupation in the Nord an ethnographic thickness [...] Connolly is a master of these archives [...] he treats the material with great sensitivity to bias and reliability.'
Journal of Military History
March 2020

‘In contrast to previous accounts of this “total occupation” [...] Connolly privileges neither the suffering nor the patriotism of the occupied [...] Together, the chapters of this book provide a more or less comprehensive survey of the range of experiences of the occupied in the Nord during the Great War [...] for readers interested in the history of occupation, the Great War, and/or modern France, this book provides a good English-language introduction to its topic.
The Journal of Modern History
March 2020

  • Collapse
  • Expand

All of MUP's digital content including Open Access books and journals is now available on manchesterhive.


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 10398 2658 117
PDF Downloads 10135 542 53