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Urban Reconstruction, 1914-1939

Rebuilding European Lives. The reconstitution of urban communities in inter-war Europe (1914-1939). Project leader: Pierre Purseigle

This project investigates the reconstitution of urban communities in Europe in the aftermath of the First World War. It will thus produce an urban history of the transition from war to peace and approach inter-war Europe as a case-study in urban resilience.

This large collaborative project cuts across frontlines to investigate the recovery of urban communities along the major European fronts of the First World War This project, as well as the outreach initiatives devised to disseminate its results, will therefore challenge national myths and historiographical exceptionalisms to integrate differentiated experiences through the systematic use of comparative and transnational frameworks of analysis.

Based on a longitudinal study of communities affected by military operations on the battlefields of France, Belgium, Italy, and modern-day Slovenia, Poland and Ukraine, it will reveal some of the critical implications of the prosecution of “total war” in Europe. The research investigates the resettlement of war veterans and refugees in the localities and regions laid to waste by the conflict. It explores previously neglected aspects of the reconstruction to supplement conventional economic and financial approaches to the post-war stabilization of Europe.

A genuinely comparative and transnational project, it builds on recent studies of cultural and political demobilization after WWI to combine the history of “sorties de guerre” with a renewed approach to the reconstruction of formerly belligerent societies. This project departs from traditionally state-centred accounts to combine local and transnational perspectives on the reconstruction and demobilization of belligerent societies.

The project also adopts an interdisciplinary approach and engage with a range of other social sciences including sociology and urban planning, archaeology, anthropology, as well as with specialists of conflict resolution and peace building.

The first preparatory meeting in the Warwick Office Brussels (partly funded by the EHRC) on 26 March 2019 brought together scholars from Ukraine (Sofia Dyak, Academic Director of the Center for Urban History, Lviv), Poland (Maciej Górny, University of Warsaw and German Historical Institue, Warsaw), Britain (Christoph Mick and Pierre Purseigle, University of Warwick), Belgium (Dries Claeys, In Flanders' Fields Museum, Ieper), and Italy (Marco Mondini, University of Padua). Covid-19 interrupted the activities which will be resumed in the academic year 2020/21.