Challenging the German Empire: Strategic nationalism in Alsace-Lorraine in the First World War


This article introduces the concept of ‘strategic nationalism’ to explain the shift of national allegiance of most Alsatians and Lorrainers from Germany to France during the First World War. Combining the historiographical concept of ‘national indifference’ with rational-choice theories of nationalism, the article examines why a growing number of local citizens came to defy the authorities' relentless demand of national loyalty. Contrary to previous studies that emphasize the dictatorial character of the regime and the passivity of local citizens, the article argues that national attitudes were shaped by strategic interests and highly responsive to shifts in state policy, regional circumstances and the course of the war. From mid-1918, it was less escalating state repression or dormant Francophile sympathies, but half-hearted liberalization of policy, the authorities' unfaltering insistence on national loyalty and imminent military and economic collapse that prompted people to see France as an attractive alternative to German rule.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors. Nations and Nationalism published by Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism and John Wiley & Sons Ltd This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Alsace-Lorraine,First World War,everyday nationalism,local nationalism,nationalism from below,rational choice,theories of nationalism,Geography, Planning and Development,Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous),Political Science and International Relations
Publication ISSN: 1469-8129
Last Modified: 20 May 2024 07:35
Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2021 15:26
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Related URLs: https://onlinel ... 1111/nana.12665 (Publisher URL)
http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2021-10-11
Published Online Date: 2021-01-14
Accepted Date: 2020-08-28
Authors: Prott, Volker (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-9000-9986)



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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