Bringing the Dead Back In: Mapping Military Casualties of the Great War on Civil Society

Vortrag, DHI London

How did the carnage of the First World War imprint society? Modern historiography has looked at the death and dying of soldiers from military, social, and cultural perspectives. Surprisingly, however, few attempts have been made systematically to analyse the social profile of ‘fallen’ soldiers and the consequences of their death within the context of civil society. The lecture draws on a research project based at the University of Osnabrück which collects complete sets of personal data of soldiers who lost their lives during the First World War for selected urban and rural areas, and projects their death onto their last known address before enlistment. This approach allows for a detailed reconstruction of the war’s impact on German society, facilitating comparative analysis across time, space, and various frames of reference. Data from Aachen and Osnabrück shows differences in the distribution of casualties in military and civil contexts, variations in regional patterns, and discrepancies between national narratives and local experience.

Christoph Rass is Professor of Modern History at the University of Osnabrück and a member of the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS). His research focuses on the social history of war and military institutions as well as on regulated labour migration and migration regimes. His most recent work includes projects on military casualties of the First World War, a social profile of the German secret service (BND), and the history of expulsion. His publications include Institutionalisierungsprozesse auf einem internationalen Arbeitsmarkt (2010) and Menschenmaterial: Deutsche Soldaten an der Ostfront (2003).

Tea is served from 5.00 p.m. in the Common Room, and wine is available after the lecture.

A guided tour of the Library is available before the lecture at 4.30 p.m.