In this Network seminar, held on 24 March 2022, five distinguished scholars with expertise in different fields reflected on possible scenarios for a Russian occupation of Ukraine.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.