Adrien Douchet1, Taline Garibian2, and Benoît Pouget3
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  • 1 Independent researcher
  • | 2 University of Oxford
  • | 3 Aix-Marseille University
Managing the remains of citizen soldiers
France and its war dead in 1914 and 1915
in Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal

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.

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