Occupation Studies

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Maastricht University

This web site and blog is intended to act as a hub for the global community of scholars working on military occupation as a form of alien rule and as a dynamic power relationship between occupiers and occupied.

Military Occupations have been a persistent feature of international politics for at least the past two hundred years since the French Revolution. Many territories are still subject to various forms of military occupation and rule today. Yet although specific cases have been studied in great detail, this research is highly fragmented. Scholars from different disciplines, studying different territories or time periods, rarely talk to each other. The Occupation Studies Research Network promotes the exchange of ideas, the sharing of information, and aims to encourage a more systematic, comprehensive and interdisciplinary conceptual understanding of the phenomenon of military occupation.

 

Recent articles

Workshop Report: Informal Communication in Occupied Societies

Workshop Report: Informal Communication in Occupied Societies

Caroline Mezger, Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Munich, Germany

The Second World War and its immediate aftermath were a breeding ground for alternate, informal information channels, in which rumours, gossip, and tall tales helped shape individuals’ actions and sense of reality.

Patriotic Duty or Gestapo Methods? Dutch Resisters and the Re-occupation of Indonesia

Patriotic Duty or Gestapo Methods? Dutch Resisters and the Re-occupation of Indonesia

Peter Romijn, University of Amsterdam & NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies, Netherlands

Why did the newly liberated Netherlands decide to go to war between 1945 and 1950, seeking to restore its colonial rule in Indonesia? Many participants in the resistance to Nazi oppression became involved in the repression of the Indonesian freedom struggle. From 1945 to 1950 some 120.000 volunteers and conscripted Dutch were sent overseas to fight a bloody war with the Indonesian freedom fighters.

‘Lucky Victims’. German-Speaking Emigrants as Soldiers of Occupation in Germany after the Second World War

‘Lucky Victims’. German-Speaking Emigrants as Soldiers of Occupation in Germany after the Second World War

Arvid Schors, University of Cologne, Germany

Tens of thousands of German-speaking emigrants had to leave their home countries as young men owing to Nazi persecution. By the end of the war, many of their relatives had been murdered. Their world was turned upside down once again when many of them became soldiers in the U.S. and the British armies and returned in the uniform of the victors.

Learning Occupation – Francis Thiallet and the History of France and Germany 1917-1957

Learning Occupation – Francis Thiallet and the History of France and Germany 1917-1957

Julia Wambach, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany

This contribution to the Network workshop on role reversals traces the life of Francis Thiallet, a French soldier and administrator. Born in 1898, he experienced and actively took part in no less than four French and German occupations in his lifetime – both as occupier and occupied.

The Occupied become Occupiers: The Case of Maczków/Haren

The Occupied become Occupiers: The Case of Maczków/Haren

Samantha Knapton, University of Nottingham, UK

In the town of Haren, the entire German population was removed and replaced with Polish Displaced Persons (DPs) for three years before eventually a second reversal took place: the Poles moved out, and the Germans moved back in.

Revenge and Retribution in the Luxembourgish Occupation Zone in Germany (1945-46)

Revenge and Retribution in the Luxembourgish Occupation Zone in Germany (1945-46)

Félix Streicher, Maastricht University, Netherlands

In the winter of 1945, the soldiers of Luxembourg’s occupation army found themselves shifting from vanquished to victors, from occupied to occupiers. This inversion of roles not only amounted to a ‘symbolic reparation’ for their collective suffering under Nazi occupation, but also provided individual soldiers with an outlet to channel their desires of retaliation, retribution, and violent reprisal.

The Age of Metamorphosis: An Introduction

The Age of Metamorphosis: An Introduction

Camilo Erlichman and Félix Streicher, Maastricht University, Netherlands

This is the first of a series of blog articles to accompany the Network workshop on Role Reversals in Foreign Occupations during and after the Second World War. As the fortunes of war changed, many people around the world found their role reversing from occupied to occupier; from living under a foreign occupation to being citizens of a state that carried out an occupation of its own.

PhD Workshop Report: Experiencing and Remembering Mass Violence

PhD Workshop Report: Experiencing and Remembering Mass Violence

Maria Fritsche, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway

The aim of the workshop was to bring together PhD students studying issues of war, violence and genocide from a social and cultural perspective. While not all papers dealt directly with the system of occupation, it was nevertheless an overarching theme.

Conference Report: The Great(er) War of Military Occupations

Conference Report: The Great(er) War of Military Occupations

Nico Wouters, CegeSoma (State Archives, Belgium) and University of Ghent

This report discusses some common themes that emerged during the recent conference in Brussels (June 24-26, 2022), including the importance of understanding the temporal perspectives and objectives of an occupier and of studying the financial economy of occupation and how this impacted the political, military or geopolitical rationale.

Japanese (Un)preparedness for the Occupation of Malaya

Japanese (Un)preparedness for the Occupation of Malaya

Sandra Khor Manickam, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Considered one of the Second World War’s greatest military campaigns, Japan’s victory in Malaya has been attributed to skillful planning and organization. In contrast, it appeared that governing Malaya was much more haphazard and difficult, with scholars arguing that the Japanese occupation authorities were largely unprepared for the task of government.

Ukrainian Historical Memories of Resistance to Occupation

Ukrainian Historical Memories of Resistance to Occupation

Yuliya von Saal, Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Munich, Germany

Based on our knowledge of the history of the region and of previous cases of military occupation, it is unlikely that everyday life would return to normal in parts of Ukraine under Russian occupation, due to the absence of an external threat, the ongoing war crimes committed by the Russians, and the historical experience of the Ukrainians’ underground struggle for national self-determination that is continuing against Russian occupiers today.

The Prospects for a Russian Occupation of Ukraine: How will it go and how will it end?

The Prospects for a Russian Occupation of Ukraine: How will it go and how will it end?

David Edelstein, Georgetown University, USA.

There are good reasons to expect that any prospective Russian occupation of Ukraine will be unsuccessful from the point of view of the occupier. The next important question to ask is how a Russian occupation of Ukraine is likely to progress from the moment at which Moscow recognizes that its occupation has stalled or is unlikely to achieve any transformative goals in Ukraine. Based on how other occupying powers have reacted after failing to achieve their initial aims, there are four possible strategies that Russia seems most likely to pursue.

The Great War’s Third Space: Military Occupations in Europe in the Era of the First World War

The Great War’s Third Space: Military Occupations in Europe in the Era of the First World War

Sophie De Schaepdrijver, Pennsylvania State University, USA

As invasions pushed frontlines deep inside enemy territory, large patches of Europe found themselves occupied by enemy armies. Occupation formed a ‘third space’ that was intricately bound up with the high-intensity, military fronts where there were millions of casualties, and with the mobilization of the home front by the belligerent governments.

New Research Perspectives on the Allied Occupation of the Rhineland after the First World War

New Research Perspectives on the Allied Occupation of the Rhineland after the First World War

Benedikt Neuwöhner, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

The presence of Allied armies in the Rhineland after the First World War is often understood merely as a prelude to Hitler and the Second World War, and thus a minor episode in European history. However, there are still many neglected research perspectives, which may provide a more nuanced view on the Rhineland occupation. In particular, British and American policy towards Germany differed considerably from the French approach, which is often mistakenly seen as representative of broader occupation dynamics at the time.

The Study of Military Occupation: What Future Military Officers Should Know

The Study of Military Occupation: What Future Military Officers Should Know

Brian Drohan, U.S. Military Academy – West Point, USA

There is an undeniable instrumentalism to the study of history within military institutions. The temptation to draw broad lessons from the past – universally applicable, but often simplistically derived – is alive and well in armed forces around the world. To avoid treating military history as a library of reductive “lessons learned,” as an amplifier for uncritical thinking about the role of military leaders, or as a means of perpetuating popular historical myths, future military officers need to study more than just military institutions, commanders, and soldiers.

The Lived Experience: Personal Memories of Occupation in the British Zone of Germany after the Second World War

The Lived Experience: Personal Memories of Occupation in the British Zone of Germany after the Second World War

Bettina Blum, Paderborn University, Germany

Military occupation can be considered as a distinctive system of rule, shaped by dynamic power relations between occupiers and occupied that operated on different levels: political, economic, cultural and social. In the case of the British occupation of Germany 1945-55, these power dynamics can be observed in daily interactions in the streets, the neighbourhoods or at the workplace, as well as in encounters at political and administrative levels.

The Changing Face of ‘Occupation Studies’

The Changing Face of ‘Occupation Studies’

Jeremy Taylor, University of Nottingham, UK

Since the US occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, various changes – both in the wider world and within the academy – have taken scholarly debates about occupation in new directions. There is now more willingness on the part of many scholars to question the distinction between occupation and other forms of external control, such as most noticeably colonialism. As such, the increasing tendency to move beyond the definition of ‘occupation’ as set out in international law reflects wider concerns about the structural legacies of colonialism.

Labour Law, Military Occupation, and Industrial Democracy

Labour Law, Military Occupation, and Industrial Democracy

Rebecca Zahn, University of Strathclyde, UK

Similar to conditions pertaining in a state of emergency, the occupation both suspended normal rules of engagement and created a (temporary) change in the power dynamics between government, workers and employers. This enabled the reorganisation of internal company structures despite the opposition and, indeed, without consultation of the owners of the companies affected; something that would not have been possible in a different political context.

On Horses and Bases: Traces of the American Occupation in Contemporary Germany

On Horses and Bases: Traces of the American Occupation in Contemporary Germany

Adam Seipp, Texas A&M University, USA

Campo Pond, a former US army training area near Frankfurt, is a perfect spot to consider the long and complicated story of the American military presence in Germany. By studying the ways that German communities have used, or tried to use, the facilities left by the Americans, we can see the durable legacies of the Cold War and the multiple transformations of German society over the past few decades.

Military Government as a System of Rule: Peculiarities and Paradoxes

Military Government as a System of Rule: Peculiarities and Paradoxes

Peter Stirk, Durham University, UK

Military occupation typically entails some measure of military government. Yet this military government has not been subject to systematic comparative study and has been largely ignored by the literature of political science. This is unfortunate for it is also a fascinating form of government precisely because of its peculiarities and paradoxes.

Second-class Occupiers?

Second-class Occupiers?

Félix Streicher, Maastricht University, NL

Little Luxembourg – a country one hundredth the size of Britain by area, with a population of only 291,000 in 1947 – was one of the Allied occupation powers in Germany after the Second World War. That there was a political and military intervention by such a small nation might even surprise experts in post-war European history.

Occupation Studies: A Manifesto

Occupation Studies: A Manifesto

Camilo Erlichman, Maastricht University, NL

The phenomenon of military occupation has long exerted a particular fascination upon both scholars and careful observers of current events. In the earliest forms of historical writing, such as Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War, the experience of a territory being seized by a ‘foreign ruler’ and the ensuing consequences for the inhabitants of that area forms an integral part of the narrative.

Interested in joining?

The Occupation Studies Research Network is intended to support scholars in any discipline, who are actively researching or who have recently completed work on some aspect of the subject of Military Occupation. Membership is free, and the network is not limited to any particular time period or national cases of occupation. Find out about how to apply for membership by clicking on the button below.