Constructing French Alsace: A state, region, and nation in Europe, 1918--1925
Story, William Shane
Sherman, Daniel J.
Doctor of Philosophy
The French government portrayed its 1918 annexation of Alsace as a liberation of the region from German tyranny and the fulfillment of France's national destiny. In subsequent purges, French officials deported Germans from the region and confiscated their properties. The purpose of the government's anti-German policies was to re-integrate Alsace and its native inhabitants into the French national community by severing the region's ties to Germany and Germans. Alsace became a crucible for the politics of national identity as individuals suffered, exploited, and challenged harsh state policies. The state and the nation have been long-standing problems in European politics and in historical studies, but only in recent decades---and especially with the rapid development of the European Union---have historians widely recognized the value of emphasizing the region as a lens for understanding the development of the nation-state. This study explores the volatile conflicts between three pressures in Alsace after the Great War: state policies, regional interests, and the politics of national identity. It views the nation in Alsace from many different perspectives. It contrasts the French national myth of Alsatian identity with the profound constitutional dilemmas that stymied both Germany's and France's exercise of sovereignty over the region. France's incomplete anti-German purges revealed many cosmopolitan communities that transcended national categories. As reintegrated French citizens, Alsatians shaped the commemoration of their German war dead to accord with a dominant narrative of French triumphalism. France's anti-German policies in Alsace represent an isolated imagining of the national community. This study interprets cultural history as the nexus of the legal, political, economic, and social conflicts that dominated the construction of French Alsace.
European history; Geography