Belgium in World War I: the shaping of twentieth century warfare
Institute of European Studies, Flanders in the USA, BENELUX Studies Program, Dutch Studies
Between 1914 and 1918, Belgium was the de facto testing ground for large-scale industrial armed conflict. From the brutal German invasion in August 1914 to the armistice in November 1918, the neutral, small state was the scene of some of the bloodiest innovations in technological warfare such as the introduction of aerial attacks on civilians, chemical weapons, rapid innovation in artillery systems and tanks. With the country split between active frontline and occupied territory, it saw four years of close civil-military interactions, propaganda wars and civilian coping strategies under occupation. It was also the target of what has been called the American ‘humanitarian awakening’, an unseen mobilization of solidarity and support from both public and private sources.
This lecture explores a range of key evolutions in twentieth century war efforts and how these were first experienced by civilians and military personnel from all over the world who lived, worked and fought in occupied and non-occupied Belgium during the war.
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