Based on a study of intersecting French archives (those of the Val de
Grâce Hospital, the Service Historique de la Défense and the
Archives Diplomatiques), and with the support of numerous printed sources, this
article focuses on the handling of the bodies of French soldiers who died of
cholera during the Crimean War (1854–56). As a continuation of studies
done by historians Luc Capdevila and Danièle Voldman, the aim here is to
consider how the diseased corpses of these soldiers reveal both the causes and
circumstances of their deaths. Beyond the epidemiological context, these dead
bodies shed light on the sanitary conditions and suffering resulting from years
of military campaigns. To conclude, the article analyses the material traces
left by these dead and the way that the Second Empire used them politically,
giving the remains of leaders who died on the front lines of the cholera
epidemic a triumphant return to the country and a state funeral.
Adrien Douchet, Taline Garibian, and Benoît Pouget
The aim of this article is to shed light on the conditions under which the funerary management of human remains was carried out by the French authorities during the early years of the First World War. It seeks to understand how the urgent need to clear the battlefield as quickly as possible came into conflict with the aspiration to give all deceased an individualised, or at the very least dignified, burial. Old military funerary practices were overturned and reconfigured to incorporate an ideal that sought the individual identification of citizen soldiers. The years 1914–15 were thus profoundly marked by a clash between the pragmatism of public health authorities obsessed with hygiene, the infancy of emerging forensic science, the aching desire of the nation to see its children buried individually and various political and military imperatives related to the conduct of the war.