This chapter introduces and contextualises the occupation of northern France in the First World war, and also outlines the methodology and approach of the book. It begins by underlining, briefly, the way in which this occupation was forgotten but has received renewed scholarly attention since the 1990s. It discusses attendant historiographical developments regarding ‘war cultures,’ and explains the socio-cultural focus of this book – and in particular introduces the key concept of a ‘culture of the occupied.’ The final two sections shed light on the choice of the Nord as an area of study, before offering an insight into the specificity of the département before the First World War, and finally a summary of the occupied Nord’s general experience of the conflict.

The experience of occupation in the Nord, 1914– 18

Living with the enemy in First World War France



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