“The Position of the First World War in the History of Europe”. International conference at University of Sarajevo, june 2014

Sarajevo: where all began. The city University is planning to host the international conference on the 19th-21st June 2014. And it goes without saying that the focus of the presences of 120 scholars from 26 European countries and from USA and Canada will be on the war outbreak. We already stated that there’s no war without politics wanting the war and it’s worth to point out the emphasis that the panel is giving to political accents of the First World War. In Italy we have for example a book clearly entitled “Political History of the First World War” by Piero Melograni. Do we have something similar in other countries? We guess so. We often forget the obvious link between politics and the First World War. A special attention will be given to the position and roles of the smaller countries before the conflict.

The preparation process of this conference started four years ago, in 2010. This is why great expectations are put on it. The way historiographies and school textbooks have told the war will be under analysis. And also this one is another key point, because we guess that a renewed process of knowledge will be possible with the comparison (and even confrontation) of different historiographies. The target is to bring new dynamism inside the international debate dedicated to World War I, both in its symptoms and its legacy.

In the presentation of such ambitious yet necessary conference professor M.Sc. Amir Duranovic said that “as far as the structure of the participants is concerned, the Conference will be a combination of youth and experience, on the one hand the experience and recognition of top historiography, and on the other hand, young forces that are emerging and which will be given the chance to meet and share their findings at this Conference, and thus open up new roads for future historiographical meetings”. Also this "combination of youth and experience" sounds new to our ears.

The University of Sarajevo Institute for History (Sarajevo)
Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (Regensburg)
Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Research Center for the Humanities (Budapest)
Institute for Balkan Studies and Trakology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (Sofia)
The Institute for National History (Skopje)
The Institute for Contemporary History (Ljubljana)
Croatian Institute of History (Zagreb)
Center for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz (Graz)

Here is the link to web page of the University of Sarajevo.

Photos of animals in World War One: veterinary hospitals for horses

Animals and Great War are connected in many different ways. We usually focus our attention on the trenches or on the battlefield, where animals and human beings competed or supported each other in a common struggle for existence. Yet also behind the front line their relation was nuanced. We find out also a special care for animals during WWI, as the Army Veterinary Service testifies. Almost all belligerent countries had similar special corps with the task to treat the sick or wounded animals, especially mules, pigeons and, of course, horses, which represented an irreplaceable mean of transport.

Conditions were severe for horses: they were often killed by artillery fire or injured by poison gas, and suffered from skin diseases. Hundreds of thousands died. Those who survived were treated instead at veterinary hospitals and eventually sent back later again to the front. A first task of the veterinary corps was to diagnose diseases and to remove the infected animals in case of epidemics in order to prevent a mass killing in the already precarious sanitarian situation at the front (many horse diseases were in fact transferable to man). The British veterinary hospitals alone treated in one year more than 120.000 horses and we can suppose that similarly was undertaken also at the opposite front.

It was however the treatment of wounded horses that characterized the veterinary hospitals of all Armies. Special clinics were built uniquely for surgery of horses and mules, where wounded animals were strapped to an elevating operating table and then operated. Sometimes however the surgeons were forced to work in precarious conditions. In this picture from the Kriegsarchiv in Vienna we can see for example the operation at a fistula at the withers in the veterinary Hospital for Horses in Praga Panenska. We thanks Eugenio Bucciol, the author of the book Animali al fronte and the editor of the same for the permission to publish this picture.

The World War I Tourism European Fair in Gorizia, Italy (23-25 May 2014)

Redipuglia, Gorizia (Military sanctuary)
The first edition of the "World War 1 Tourism European Fair" is taking place in May in Gorizia, Northeastern Italy, at the same time with èStoria, probably the most important Italian festival dedicated to history. We believe that this fair, like all fairs, will represent an opportunity to check the state of the art in the WW1 tourism business and beside of that a concrete chance to facilitate meetings among people with common focus and aims. Furthermore, the location itself makes sense: the city of Gorizia, the heart of the "forgotten" Eastern front of First World War, is really the connection between Western and Eastern Europe. Here below is the press release of the event. The web site is hosted here.

Press release
Gorizia is set to open the official celebration for the Centenary of the First World War with the WW1 Tourism European Fair, scheduled to take place in the city located on the border between Italy and Slovenia from May 23 to May 25, 2014. The hundreds of tourist locations and sites of remembrance of the First World War will thus have the opportunity to promote the activities they are implementing for the 5-year Centenary of the Conflict (2014-2018). 

The WW1 Tourism European Fair will be held together with the International History Festival e’Storia (www.estoria.it): an event, now in its 10th edition, which has become an international reference point for thousands of scholars and lovers of history.
During the First World War Gorizia played a key role in that dramatic conflict: sites like Redipuglia or Caporetto are already attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. This is the main reason why this city located at the Northeastern end of Italy was elected as the location for the WW1 Tourism European Fair. Furthermore, Gorizia is the symbol of a territory bridging diverse political, cultural and linguistic contexts – the so-called Old and New Europea - which have recently started to develop new forms of collaboration and connection after years of separation. 

The WW1 Tourism European Fair will gather professionals from the territories of the so-called Italian front/Mountain War – the regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto, Trentino and Lombardy, but also Slovenia, Croatia and Austria – and from other countries involved in the Great War, such as France, Germany and Great Britain.
The Fair will be located in an area of approximately 2,000 sqm, which will offer the opportunity to set up exhibition areas and organize b2b meetings. The event is promoted by Nordest Eventi – a company specialized in event management from Padova - in collaboration with the Municipality of Gorizia, e’Storia-International History Festival, and other local institutions.

The World War I Tourism European Fair offers a wide variety of commercial spaces over a surface of around 2,000 square meters. Exhibitions areas will be located within existing buildings and in tensile structures placed around the area where E'Storia-International History Festival takes place.

The first edition of the World War I Tourism European Fair will be taking place in Gorizia from May 23 to May 25, 2014.

For further information:
0498757589 ext. 11.

Small Nations and Colonial Peripheries in World War I: Europe and the Wider World (CfP)

Senegalese soldiers in Belgium (Battle of Aisne)
We’ve already dealt with the problem of the connection between center and peripheries in the Great War and we’ve already raised the question whether such a distinction may be today regarded as senseless one. Even the smallest nations and the colonies which supported the opposite imperial forces during the WWI played in fact a not negligible role, even regarding the mere quantitative terms of the war economy. If we then turn to the social and cultural aspects, these (seemingly) “peripheral protagonists” disclose important insight into the epochal changes which characterizes the period and provide – at some stage better than the “central actors” of the conflict – new perspective for a transnational and comparative analysis and discussions. In order to promote the debate on this topic a workshop will be organized in June 2014 at the History Department of the National University of Ireland, Galway. Paper Proposal are welcomed till the end of February. You can find below the complete CfP with a list of the themes which should be discussed. 

Call for Papers for an International Workshop on
Small Nations and Colonial Peripheries in World War I:
Europe and the Wider World
National University of Ireland, Galway
Friday 13th-Saturday 14th June 2014

The purpose of this workshop is to provide a forum of debate for transnational and comparative
approaches to the history of small European nations and Europe’s colonial peripheries in World War I in the context of the epochal changes brought by the collapse of large imperial states. Our aim is to reach a more nuanced understanding of the complex relationship between the peripheral regions of Europe and her empires and Europe’s metropolitan core through the comparative and transnational analysis of the contribution of European, Asian and African peripheries to the war effort in World War I. 

Prof. Michael S. Neiberg, an eminent scholar of World War I, will deliver the keynote address. Prof.Neiberg has written extensively on the multiple theatres and global reach of the War, most notably in Fighting the Great War: A Global History (Harvard, 2006) and Dance of the Furies: Europe and theOutbreak of World War I (2011). 

Scholars are invited to submit papers on themes focusing on social, political, or economic aspects ofEurope’s small nations and colonial regions during World War I. 

Themes covered may include the following:
• Colonial troops serving in Europe
• Troops of ethnic European minority populations serving in Europe
• Troops of ethnic European minority populations serving in overseas colonies
• Experiences of populations of independent small nations in Europe
• Experiences of populations of ethnic minorities within European multiethnic states
• Experiences of indigenous and settler populations of European overseas empires
• Official attempts to mobilise popular support across all ethnic groups in Europe and in the overseas colonies
• Support for or resistance to such mobilisation efforts and their different outcomes

Papers may address the following geographical regions:
• Peripheries of European multi-ethnic empires in Europe
• Peripheries of European belligerent powers to the east and south of Europe
• Europe’s overseas colonies 

The workshop is an initiative of Róisín Healy, Enrico Dal Lago, and Gearóid Barry at the History Department, NUI Galway, and will be held in June 2014 in order to mark the beginning of the commemorations for the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I.

Prospective participants should send a paper title and a 300-word abstract, accompanied by a 1-pageCV to enrico.dallago@nuigalway.ie by the deadline of 28 February 2014. They will be notified ofacceptance by mid-March 2014.

World War I Italian fiction. An interview with Giovanni Capecchi

The one that follows is a good opportunity to deepen the knowledge of Italian fiction of the Great War. We have the pleasure to post an interview with Giovanni Capecchi, professor of Italian Literature at University for Foreigners in Perugia. He recently wrote a book entitled Lo straniero nemico e fratello. Letteratura italiana e Grande Guerra (The Stranger as Enemy and Brother. Italian Literature and the Great War, published by Clueb, the cover is beside). This study is going to become a starting point for future researches about the fiction written during or after the First World War. We wish to thank professor Capecchi once again for his time and the answers below. 

Would you suggest fiction or poetry for a better understanding of the Great War in Italy?
There are very important poems which can help us understanding some aspects of the Great War. Take for example Ungaretti’s Il porto sepolto or, moving to England, Owen’s compositions. Nevertheless, I really think that works of prose remain the best handhold to understand that war and I mean both novels that originate from the immediate trenches experience (think about Un anno sull’altipiano by Emilio Lussu, - translated with the title of A Year on the High Plateau – which appeared 1938 (the cover of one of the several editions is beside) and yet one of the most important work on the topic) and diaries or memoirs. Not so renowned, but extraordinary works are Trincee (Trenches) by Carlo Salsa and Diario di un imboscato (Diary of a Draft Dodger) by Attilio Frescura.

Why did you decide to work at this introduction to the Italian literature on the Great War? Did you look at other similar anthologies - in Italy and especially abroad - to organize the material? If not, can you describe your working method?
The answer could be very long. I try to summarize it. What I personally like is when you can record a sort of friction between literature and history: during some crucial periods writers were able to narrate “live” better than historians or journalists did. In Italy this is exemplified by authors like Verga, De Roberto or Pirandello after the process of national reunification or like Bianciardi, Calvino, Ottieri, Volponi, Pasolini or Testori during and after the economical boom of the Sixties. The First World War was really a break between all what was before and what happened after. The Italian poets, a part from few exceptions, wanted the war for very different reasons. They went to the front and fought the war in the trenches. Except the cases of those poets who kept on celebrating the war as a welcomed event (among others Marinetti or d’Annunzio), most of them described a war that was very different from the one they had expected or even wished: the muddy motionless war of the trenches, of “moles” rather than of heroic fight on the open battlefield, the long war instead of the “blitzkrieg”, against a – mostly invisible – enemy. This does not mean that at the end they disavow the war, but for sure they started depicting the war as it really was, giving up the bombast of the first days. Actually their narration of the war was also a way to tell the human life, dominated by the shadow of death.
I spent some years reading literary texts and essays about the First World War. Reference books were those of Mario Isnenghi and, for Italian poetry, the anthology edited by Andrea Cortellessa (see cover beside this answer: the book edited by Andrea Cortellessa is probably the best anthology of Italian Great War poetry today available). But also the works of Fulvio Senardi, Fabio Todero, Marino Biondi and Franco Contorbia were important as well. Anyway, what eventually came out was that a study on Italian fiction about WWI was still missing in the panorama. I tried to fill the gap, trying to offer a book especially useful for the students.

Among the wide literary output related to World War I, is it possible to identify at least few general "mainstreams" or "specific features", which characterize the work of Italian writers of the period? Or are we forced to deal with a sort of kaleidoscope of single point of views and personal experiences?
The relationship could be described in this simple statement: each author has his personal war experience. Sometimes we are not allowed to considers their works as a reliable representation of the war - consider for example Carlo Emilio Gadda’s diary, Diario di guerra e di prigionia (see Gadda beside in the picture), that is rather the story of his neurosis. Anyway, some themes are recurring and above all the dramatic difference between the war they had imaged and the war they really lived. Other important themes are the journey toward the front (the railway stations, for example, and the discovery of the front) as well as the idea that the heroism of soldiers was not to be found in hating the enemies or in longing for bloody battles but in the capability of keeping one’s own place even despite the fear, and also the constant presence of death (for many of them “a question of centimetres”).

Writing as a therapeutic process, as a form of elaboration of traumas. How does this statement fit with the narrative of the Great War?
It goes without saying that narrating the war is an attempt to elaborate the trauma. But there’s an important point that has to be stressed. For many of these writers the war became the most important moment of their life or, like Giovanni Comisso wrote using a mathematical image, “the square root of life”. After what they experienced in the trenches, their life after 1918 cannot but be “mediocre”. And of course we cannot forget that the war gives evidence to the vulnerability of human life and its transience. Writing about the war means writing about the life itself.

Does the stylistic genre (diary, fiction, biographic report) adopted by the single authors affect the interpretation of the war?
Very interesting question. Each writer has its own opinion about the war and this opinion is not given once for all. This idea of war is destined to change in the years. But what I can say is that the idea of war emerges from what they wrote with a power that is somehow related to the form they chose (poetry, fiction, diary). Poetry of course drives to synthesis, a novel or a short story allow to dilute the vision of things thanks to their literary filters. Diaries or notepads register the first impressions without the time meditation that often exists between actions and the description that comes after. 

What about the interconnection between authors, works and nations? Is it possible to look at the narrative of the Great War as a meta-discourse, as a collective work of interpretation, elaboration and remembering the war beyond the national divisions? From this point of view, does the category of "enemy" always work? 
The category of “enemy” was the starting focus of my researches. I believe that what I demonstrate is a kind of evolution of the image of the enemy in soldiers’ minds. Before the war, the intervention propaganda depicted the enemy as a monster; in the trenches, during a first phase, we have the “invisible enemy” that soldiers kill without hesitation or afterthoughts. It’s when the enemy is under sight that soldiers see a neighbor and a brother who - like everybody - longs to come back home, thinks about kin and does not love the war. This represents a recurring topic that many authors describe and it’s also an attempt to detect a spark of humanity in the inhumanity of war. And we don’t have to forget that the feeling of brotherhood among combatants is in contrast with the distance between soldier and officials in the trenches on the one hand, and between them and the general headquarters – which were far away and out of danger – on the other hand: these latter, notwithstanding they were compatriots, became the real “enemy”.

On a worldwide level, which are the top three novels of the Great War according to your reading experience?
Un anno sull’altipiano by Emilio Lussu, Le feu by Henri Barbuse and Im Westen nichts Neues by Eric Maria Remarque. These are three novels where the autobiographic element is the key.

Any suggestion about World War I novels that could be translated into Italian or on unknown Italian World War I Novels that could be "exported"?
I stay on the second part of your question: Vent’anni by Corrado Alvaro is not known outside Italy and I think it could be interesting to translate it. In addition to this, Trincee by Carlo Salsa and Guerra del ‘15 by Giani Stuparich (see cover beside) could be promoted at an international level. And again La paura by Federico De Roberto, a short story that was translated into French. La paura is a great short story, written under the influence of a strong realism by a writer who did not take part in the war. This is an aspect that needs to be considered: we do not have only soldiers narrating the war, but also stories from behind the lines, from the military hospitals, from the offices (think about Aldo Palazzeschi, who, in Rome, still lives and suffers the war as a trauma). The distance from the front did not prevent Federico De Roberto from writing a masterpiece like La paura.

If you were forced to make a choice, which books would you suggest to approach the Italian narrative of the Great War? Let's say four books to recommend to our readers.
I know I repeat myself but this is my list: Un anno sull’altipiano by Lussu, Trincee by Carlo Salsa, Il porto sepolto by Ungaretti and La paura by De Roberto (beside in the image). These four books represent four different forms and namely the autobiographic novel, the diary, the book of poetry and the short story but also four books born in different time and space. Ungaretti and his “live poetry”, Salsa and the process of writing after coming back home starting from the notes taken during the conflict, Lussu and the late publishing of Un anno sull’altipiano in 1938, to keep distance from Fascist rhetoric and to demonstrate that the topic of First World War endures twenty years later, and finally De Roberto that, as we said, wrote a masterpiece far from the front.

1914 – The Middle of Europe: The Rhineland and the First World War

It's a good thing to start listing well-defined projects and not only the promising but often iffy ones. One of these is what comes out with the name 1914 - Mitten in Europa: Das Rheinland und der Erste Weltkrieg  (1914 – The Middle of Europe: The Rhineland and the First World War). Its concept is simple, nice and above all applicable to other national cases. In other words, we believe that this project can turn into a case study: a wise and compelling mix of exhibitions, excursions, events and research programmes with strong cooperation among museums, cultural departments and national and international partners. The focus in this case is on the years 1913-1915 but we all have to think that the First World War Centenary appears today as a long five year period and absolutely needs to catch a fine tuning and a progressive modulation in such a long timeframe. Secondly, another crucial point is under everyone's eyes: the First World War and consequently its centennial is a matter of different and very different "regional" wars, basically overlapping with the different fronts (and all fronts have two sides!) and this fragmentation needs to be transformed into a plus. In this case we all know the relevance of Rhineland before and after the war and we can confidently look at this new project as a reference one. The advisory board is chaired by Professor Gertrude Cepl-Kauffman from the Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf. Last but not least we should look at it as probably the first project with a river clearly present in its name. The relevance and big potential of rivers during World War One have been often underestimated. It was not only a symbolic component. This big potential and protagonism of rivers during World War One is something that absolutely needs to be recovered.

Here is the web site of the project, for the moment only in German.