Lisbon conference on the Great War/Compte-rendu du colloque de Lisbonne, par/by Marco Pluviano (en anglais)

Marco Pluviano fait pour le Crid 14-18 le compte-rendu du colloque organisé en juin dernier à Lisbonne.

International Conference « From the trenches to Versailles. War and memory ».

From 22 to 26 of June the Universidade Nova de Lisboa (U.N.L.) has organized a Conference about: « From the trenches to Versailles. War and memory ». The Conference was held in the U.N.L.’s campus in Campolide.

The Conference’s program was very rich, with contributions from all around Europe. The papers were devoted both to the main fighting Countries and to the Portuguese war experience. This last had been intertwined with the birth of the Republic and with its very difficult life.

Some papers had pointed out that for many Portugueses the war was a « Republican war », because Lisbon new leadership’s war-aims were both international (defence and growth of the African colonies) and internal (Republic’s strengthening against monarchic nostalgia). Republican leadership also hoped to stop Country’s decadence, and to gain more autonomy by the traditional « protector »: Great Britain. Republican propaganda stressed the subjects of freedom, democratic solidarity and fighting against reactionary monarchies. Portuguese intervention had a double character: the European, in the Flanders’ fields, and the African, in Angola and Mozambique. While the first didn’t receive a general support (conservative and clerical milieu didn’t like the war against the Central Empires), the second had received the support from all the political sides. Portugueses felt that their colonial empire could be threatened by Germany, but also by some British and South African circles’ aims.

The Conference’s program was focused on two main fields: the memory of the war; the Paris Peace Conference.

About the first subject the contributors have explored both the intellectuals’ and the common people’s attitudes, with a special attention for the birth of the « civic and political religions and cults », both in the democratic Countries and in the reactionary regime. For these last, they analysed the transition from the post-war Liberal leaded governments’ « civic religions » to the building of the « political religions » by the reactionary governments (especially Italian Fascism and Portuguese Estado Novo). There also were papers about the war memory’s repression in some countries (for instance, Ireland and Turkey), because it was linked with oppressive and colonial regimes. Also military justice in the main fighting Countries had been considered.

About Paris Peace Conference and immediately post-war years, some papers had been presented about the different Countries’ strategies at the Conference, and about their attitude towards the worldwide public opinion. Also, there were papers about the « long demobilization » and the post war turmoils and conflicts.

In a nutshell, the Conference was able to draw an interesting picture about the building of war’s memory, and about the difficult to make this in some Countries experiencing heavy political divisions. It also showed as the Liberal governments tried to establish a less intrusive and more inclusive memory, with a less rhetorical and nationalistic attitude.

The papers were also able to explain some national leaderships’ efforts to use the war experience to establish new national and ethnical identities and to build a new model of society and social relationships. Also the extension of memory’s subsidence had been highlighted.

The main limits of the Conference were the inadequate space devoted to the Central Empires heirs States’ efforts to build a national memory; and to the worldwide building of a pacifist « alternative memory ».

Notwithstanding, the Conference was very interesting and stimulating, and it has had the great merits to have began to deal with the Versailles subject at European level, using both diplomatic and cultural and memorialistical sources.

Marco Pluviano

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