The First World War: a new genre (correction)

World War I was the first subject of the Sciences Po Bordeaux1st year entrance exam for the year 2014. Nazism and Stalinism were the second subject.

We will insist on the correction of thefirst subject, which was more original in its formulation, and then examine thesecond subject, which deals with the classic problem of comparison between totalitarianisms.

Annales de Sciences Po Bordeaux

Topic 1: World War I: a new kind of war?

Analysis of the subject:

→ “World War I:

This part of the topic already gives the limits of the subject: historical: 1914-1918, and spatial: worldwide.

The word “First” implies that it is an unprecedented conflict, and in fact represents the very solution of the subject!

As the “first” world war, the war is by definition of a new kind. The subject is in this sense amusing, because the question is the answer, the answer is the question, as if Churchill were asked: “What is your name Mr. Churchill?

Of course the subject does not stop there, and it will be necessary to specify in what it can have a link of continuity with the preceding wars, and in what this “new kind” consists.

→ “a war”

War: conflicting relations that are settled by armed struggle, with a view to defending a territory, a right or to conquer them, or to make an idea triumph. Definition that can be nuanced, specified, especially in the context of world war.

→ “of a new kind?”

This was the most difficult part of the topic for you to define.

Genre of war: a set of wars having the same origin or related by the similarity of one or more characters

New: here, unpublished, i.e. more explicitly: did the First World War give rise to a set of wars, which differs from all the wars known until then?

Problematic and plan

For the problematic, we had to ask ourselves : why am I being asked this question ? The real core of the problem, in this question, is not to know if the First World War is original. It is to ask ourselves: does the First World War follow the classic pattern of wars: same motives, same means, or if on the contrary the First World War, because it is anchored in the XXth century, has other motives, and other means?

It should be noted on this subject that war was the subject of General Knowledge last year at Sciences Po Bordeaux.

There is no single good problematic, there are many, but a good classic problematic could look like :

How is the First World War from 1914 to 1918 representative of the transformations of the century despite the maintenance of a classic relationship of armed conflict?

For the plan, it was not easy. The best plans are often chrono-thematic, but it must be admitted that it was difficult to put it together, especially since the test lasts only 1 hour. Given the short format, you also had the choice between a 2-part or 3-part plan (3 parts is the plan preferred by historians).

3 ideas had to appear to confirm that the 1st World War was a new kind of war:

I. World War (interlocking alliances, from Europe to the world) (from 1914)

II. Total war (mobilizes all human means, economic means, and all societies) (1915-18)

III. Brutalization (through new techniques, trench system, process of moral brutalization) (1915-1918)

Beware, the plan is not as simple as that. These three ideas must be explored from a double angle: chronological and ruptures/continuities.

Thus, for the I. World War, we must start from 1914, and see how the system of alliances gives rise to the 1st World War. A conflict had never been generalized in the world,“First” World War.

For the II. Total War, it must be shown that the distribution is no longer the same compared to previous wars, where the civilian population was not affected in the same way. The wars concerned those who decided to go to war, professionals of war in a way. This time, all the human means are used, and the front as well as the back, notably thanks to propaganda, are turned towards the war effort, especially after 1915, when one really realizes that the war is going to last.

For the III. Brutalization, and in order to follow the chrono-thematic plan, we must insist on the balance sheet and the consequences of the war. The concept of brutalization (established by the historian George L. Mosse) was perfect to characterize this new genre, especially since it is based on historiographical considerations. It would have been greatly appreciated at Sciences Po Bordeaux.

Paul Valéry’s sentence, even if it is classic and risks tiring the corrector, would have made a good hook for the assignment: “We civilizations now know that we are mortal” The Crisis of the Mind, 1919

Topic 2: Nazism and Stalinism: commonalities and specificities

Analysis of the topic :

Nazism: Ideology of the German Third Reich and all the political, economic and social practices developed by Hitler’s party

Stalinism: Ideology and set of political, economic and social practices developed by Stalin in the USSR from 1924 to 1953, adopted by the other communist parties, officially condemned in 1956 at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

It was clearly and simply a question of showing the common points and the differences.

Problematic and plan :

The topic title commonalities/differences set the stage for a simple and classic, but successful, plan that would also follow in I. commonalities, II. differences, of course specifically naming these commonalities and differences in the plan announcement.

You will find these commonalities and differences between Nazism and Stalinism in an article on the Intégrer Sciences Po website.

→ corrigés Sciences Po Bordeaux 2013

4 thoughts on “The First World War: a new genre (correction)

  1. Hello, could you suggest a correction for the second geo topic because I really do not see what topic it was referring to or what information or knowledge was expected since the last two topics which precisely dealt with France’s relations with the EU and in the world were not to be revised… Thank you very much in advance for your answer!

  2. Hello First of all, thank you very much for having made available a correction of the subject so quickly. During the test I forgot to propose a problem and to announce my plan… To try to catch up I recalled the three parts of my plan in my conclusion. Is this still a very bad point? Cordially

  3. @caro: Hello Caro, It all depends on what you wrote, and how you wrote it. It is true that it would have been nice to insist on the fact that this war is for the first time worldwide, which is one of the most important characteristics. Anyway, you had to use the word “world war”, it is already mentioning this point, so it will not be totally penalizing; again, it all depends on what you wrote and how. It is with pleasure, hoping that you have a good mark, The Academics in Politics team

  4. Hello, I allow myself to ask you for details on the plan concerning the 1st subject: it is completely penalizing if the copy does not treat the 1st point of your plan (World War (gear of alliances, from Europe to the world) ? Thanks for your help!

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