29 August 2018
My second book, an edited collection with contributions by sixteen international scholars from Britain, the USA, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia – all experts in the subject of military occupation and its social, political, economic, cultural and legal implications – is published this month by Bloomsbury Academic.
The idea for the book originated at a conference held at the German Historical Institute London in September 2016, that I organised jointly with a colleague, Camilo Erlichman, now Assistant Professor in History at Maastricht University. Camilo and I are the joint editors of the book and we wrote the first, introductory chapter on ‘Reframing Occupation as a System of Rule’.
It seemed to us that when people write about a country or part of a country occupied during or after a war – such as Germany or Japan after the Second World War, the occupation of the Rhineland after the First World War, the wartime occupations by Germany of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and much of Eastern Europe, or the more recent military occupations of Iraq or Afghanistan by the United States, to give just a few out of many possible examples – they normally treat the subject as an isolated, individual case, without thinking about military occupation as a subject in its own right, as a system of rule, with certain characteristics that apply to all cases, just as other systems of rule – such as liberal democracies, absolute monarchies, military dictatorships, or imperial colonies – also share certain characteristics.
Of course, different cases of military occupation are experienced by the local population, and by the ruling occupiers, in very different ways. Some occupations are oppressive and highly destructive; others are relatively benevolent. Some are very short, lasting only a few weeks or months; others can last for years or even decades. But in our view, we need to ask similar questions about all, and our understanding of any one case of occupation can be improved through comparing it with others. For example, questions that can and should be asked about all cases include:
- What were the origins of the occupation, how and why did it arise?
- How did the new rulers, the occupiers, manage the legacy of the previous regime that has now been superseded by the occupation?
- How did the local population respond to the occupation, did they cooperate, or resist, or both?
- What strategies of rule were adopted by the occupiers in order to maintain their power and authority, and establish their legitimacy as rulers?
- What legal framework did they adopt?
- What was the experience of daily life under occupation, for both occupiers and occupied?
- How did personal relationships between occupiers and occupied evolve, at all levels of society?
- How did the occupation evolve over time, and eventually end, how was power devolved or transferred from occupier to occupied?
- Did some social groups win or lose from the occupation?
- What were the most significant legacies of occupation – social, political, cultural and economic – for the countries concerned?
These are some of the questions we tried to address in the book, in the case of the three western zones of Germany, occupied by the United States, Britain and France after the Second World War.
Transforming Occupation in the Western Zones of Germany is an academic publication and priced accordingly, which means that it will be bought mainly by university libraries and other institutions, and read by students of the history of Germany and post-war Europe, and more generally, by researchers exploring occupation as a subject in its own right.
If you are interested and would like to know more, you can read the contents and the first chapter, written by Camilo Erlichman and myself, online, entirely free of charge. Follow the link at the end of this post.
And if you would like to read the whole book but cannot justify buying your own copy, please do request a copy from your local library?
Here are some extracts from early reviews of the book:
‘This is an exceptionally valuable volume that brings together a first-rate group of historians. It belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in postwar Germany or the long legacies of the Allied occupation.’
Adam Seipp, Professor of History, Texas A&M University, USA.
‘This outstanding collection sheds fascinating new light on many diverse aspects of the occupation of Western Germany after 1945. More than this, however, it asks that we rethink out understanding of occupation in modern history in more general terms. As such it will be crucial reading for scholars of political transition in a wide variety of different fields.’
Neil Gregor, Professor of Modern European History, University of Southampton, UK.
‘Often casting a critical eye on the planning and practices of the western powers, the authors recount fascinating stories of conflict and cooperation between victors and vanquished that reveal the contingency and complexity of the history of occupied Germany.’
Timothy Schroer, Professor of History, University of West Georgia, USA.