Metropolitan Catastrophes Scenarios, Experiences and Commemorations in the Era of Total War

A conference sponsored by the Centre For Metropolitan History, with support from the Leverhulme Trust

Institute of Historical Research Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Monday 12 July - Tuesday 13 July 2004

Total war blurred the boundaries between home and front and transformed cities into battlefields. This conference explores the cultural imprint of military conflict on metropolises worldwide over a long time-span and provides a forum for the interchange of ideas on the comparative history of metropolises and wars.

Derek Keene and Stefan Goebel (CMH) Introduction

ACW was first example. Focus of attention: Urban space + War (culture + violence)

(Don’t ever consider Chemical — Biological warfare, it seems)

Imagery preceded experience

Eric Homberger (University of East Anglia) Dress-rehearsal for catastrophe: New York City, 1863

July 18 1863 — Draft riots in NY against induction to ACW, NY anti-Lincoln & anti-Republican

3 days of civil disorder due to lack of troops. Actually became 4 riots at various levels:

anti-draft law, anti-black (sacked coloured orphanage, and tried to drive blacks from city), robbery + looting, arson, theft & extortion, against the wealthy (revolutionary hatred of rich).

Interpreted via Carlyle and Dickens’ views of French Revolution (Dickens had published ‘Tale of 2 Cities’ 2 years before).

Behaviour of "inhuman savagery" limited only in areas where occupants had firearms.

Weather very hot and muggy.

No observeable leaders or organisation but attempts were made to seal off Manhattan which suggested a controlling intelligence.

Riots did not extend to NJ.

Next riots in 1867 between Catholic and Protestant Irish

Carl Abbott (Portland State University) Big blowups and quiet catastrophes: imagining the death of American cities

Literature of apocalypse

Absence of cities in (implicitly US) reconstruction narrative

Politics of diminution and exaggeration of catastrophes — assignment of blame

Susan Grayzel (University of Mississippi) A promise of terror to come’: the threat of air power and the destruction of cities in British imagination and experience, 1908-1939

Cultural history of the Air raid

Cities = Civilisation

HG Wells War in the Air (became film "Things to come")

L’aviateur Pacifique.

Keynote: Patrice Higonnet (Harvard University) Paris under the impact of total war

Destruction of capitals & other cities.

Total War = Total destruction or total mobilisation?

Lack of damage to Paris: Charles de Gaulle’s entry into Paris followed by his visit to the (undamaged) French War Ministry where all continued as before. Rothschild’s question to his Butler; " and while I was away, who came to dinner here"? Butler:" the same people you used to invite".

Paris unaffected by propaganda.

French oppositions Vichy (Clerical Reactionaries) vs. Fascists (Basiliac D’Orio — L’Homme du Maréchal).

Meaning of anything under occupation depends on "what happens next". Cultural throw-forward: echoes of Marx, Heine, Bismarck, remain in popular consciousness until 1940 — Paris as centre of world.

Julian Jackson "1940"

Roxanne Panchasi (Simon Fraser University) The Seine is burning: mapping catastrophe in interwar Paris

Fake Paris prepared in 1918 using an elaborate system of lights to defeat bombers. Never used.

Idea thereafter re-elaborated .

Anticipation as a cultural force.

1921 Octave Jonquel; "Les Titans du Ciel"

1330 Gautier

Janet Ward (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) On the transformative challenge of urban catastrophe

Destruction — creation

Mike Davis — "City of Quartz"

Catastrophe — Greek (Overturning)

Keynote: Jay Winter (Yale University) Configuring catastrophe: Paris, London, Berlin 1914—1919

Difference between 2 World wars:

WW-I darker, less sociable cities than WW-II

Nostalgic recreation of a city which never existed in the imagination (ignored Ieper)

Obliteration after WW-II

Use of the stroll in literature as a means of identifying identity, status, schools, homes, piazze, cemeteries as sites of meaning (no mention of Barthes or semiotics.

Cultural history of iconoclasm and imaginative reconstruction of how things were (nostalgia). Rise of women.

Politics of public spaces have made stakeholders out of authorities municipal, military and commercial(didn’t mention ecclesiastical).

Need for an analytic framework: "capabilities" vs. "functionings"

Development is freedom.

Future of nostalgia (collective versus "time of our dreams"). "Life and times of Colonel Blimp " an example of two nostalgias.

Production of nostalgic artefacts such as iron models of Hindenburg

Restorative nostalgia (what cannot be regained) versus reflective nostalgia (potential space they occupied in former times).

Nostalgia exhibiting an acceptance of our inability to return, a way of negotiating change

Nostalgia not used to manipulate the masses.

Cruelty and nostalgia closely linked. (doesn’t relate nostalgia to grief)

The more the war modified life the greater the need to return

Scott FitzGerald’s "Return to Thiepval"

Cities as theatrical sites — galleries of sites of contestation.

Impulse of WWII different that of WWI: WWI memorials say "never again", WWII memorials have to cope with the political failure to prevent.

Keith Grieves (Kingston University) Experiencing the relational difference of life in metropolitan London and the countryside in two world wars

Country vs. Town

Rural — particular, stable, a sanctuary

Town — unstable, kaleidoscopic, moving-picture, place of meeting and news. Very dark

Movement from town to country

Shell-shocked children referred to by Evening Standard

Peter Stansky (Stanford University) September 7, 1940: the first day of the London Blitz

Utterly forgettable paper invaluable only for those who have never heard of WW-I

Helen Jones (Goldsmith College, London) Visualising London in total war

Keynote: Antony Beevor (London) Stalingrad and Berlin — total warfare in a city?

War aims change over time

Ritualised campaigning of the past

American War of Independence as example of "Patriotic" warfare

Napoleonic war — few towns besieged.

Difficulty of urban warfare. Thus little urban warfare in WW-I

7000 Russian casualties per day 1914-18.

German doctors’ definition of "shell-shock" was removed by Weimar

Maureen Healy (Oregon State University) Total war and local space: Vienna in the two world wars

1st air raid on Vienna in 1918 — Italians dropped leaflets inciting insurrection against Habsburgs.

Viennese had developed notion of "Internal" enemies (Jews — (vs. Christians), black marketeers).

Otherwise relatively sympathetic to strangers. Habsburgs and Nazis imported Russian and Italian prisoners - Many cases of fraternisation between Viennese and Russian POWs who worked distributing coal.

Pre-1914 German nationalists attempted to emphasise ‘German’ character of Vienna — particularly in relation to Slavic ingress.

In 1939 such an emphasis was less easy due to "Prussian" incursion (Anschluss). In 1938 96% had voted for the Anschluss.

Nazi concern to eliminate "Austrian" character. Göbbels Gauleiter until 1941, thereafter Baldur von Schirach. Attempt to reduce Vienna’s cultural hegemony. Policy of renaming: "Austria" — "Ostmark" — "Alpine and Danube Regions".

Austrian discontent with AH closely paralleling that of Kaiser Wilhelm.

In WW-II meaning s of victory and defeat tended to be inverted.

More food available in WW-II than in WW-I — food distribution being better.

Tim Cole (University of Bristol) Ghettos and the remaking of urban space: a comparative study of Hungarian cities, 1944

Excellent paper on the movement of Jews within 2 Hungarian cities prior to deportation.

Conducted during a period of some 4 months just as the Russians were approaching. Their nearness never entered the debate.

Forum of the debate — local papers. Subject: the locations of Jewish ghettos. Protagonists: Mayor’s office and residents groups No particular concern to locate ghettos near the main railway stations.

Bernhard Rieger (International University Bremen) National Socialism, air war and local memory in Bremen after 1945

Excellent paper focusing on the independent character of Bremen and its statue.

Mediaevalisation of WW-I memorials

Julie Higashi and Lim, Bon (Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto) The spirit of war remains intact: the politics of space in Tokyo and the Yasukuni Shrine

Q: Is there an attempt in Japan to rewrite Japanese history through its war memorials (alla Herwig)? Answer: "Yes"!

Keynote: Lisa Yoneyama (University of California, San Diego) Memories in ruins: politics of remembering and forgetting Hiroshima’s atomic annihilation

Memorial of Hiroshima connects to many other movements

Thought: criticality of speed — Hiroshima and Ieper were almost completely destroyed and were completely rebuilt , but Ieper was destroyed slower and rebuilt identically. Hiroshima is a lesson for the future — Ieper for the past. And Chernobyl?

Thought: Hiroshima controversy is the inverse of the causative distance from the event — sites of controversy, structure of controversy, temporal location of controversy

Eyal Ginio (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) Transmitting the agony of a besieged population: Edirne (Adrianople) in Ottoman propaganda during the Balkan Wars, 1912—1913

See attached paper

Turks’ interest in WW-I centres on Gallipoli

Jovana L. Knezevic (Yale University) News, propaganda, mail and rumors in occupied Belgrade, 1915—1918

Claims by Austria of embellishment of Belgrade under their tutelage — a little evidence.

Mark R. Hatlie (Tübingen University) Re-mapping Riga: sudden regime change during war and revolution

Locus of Russo-German conflict

Mass evacuation of civilians in summer 1918

Germans put an electric fence around Riga

Joe L. Nasr and Peter J. Larkham (University of Central England) From vestiges to mementoes: the treatment of churches and other special buildings after the Second World War

Comparison of Great fire of London remembered by "mementification" (aka. translation into a memento not a memorial.

Fiona Henderson (Royal Holloway, University of London) Gazing at ruins: the politics and poetics of bombsite tourism in London and Berlin post-1945

It took a long time to rebuild London and in the meantime people sold maps of the ruined sites. Ahhh. Failed to connect with British interest in Italian ruins of C18th.

Stefan Goebel (CMH) Commemorative cosmopolis: Coventry after 1945

Lisa A. Kirschenbaum (West Chester University) National mythmaking and forgetting: the siege of Leningrad

Complete absence of any analytic or critical thought — antiquarianism updated, centred entirely on an aesthetically-depraved Russian war memorial. Managed to talk about myths, Russia and Leningrad for 10 painful minutes without ever mentioning Shostakovich.

Return to WWI Resource Centre Index