The First World War: a new genre (correction)

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

→ Compilation de Sciences Po Bordeaux

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

Analysis of the question:

→ “World War I:

This part of the question already gives the limits of the question: 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 question!

As the ‘first’ world war, the war is by definition of a new kind. The exam question 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 question 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 of 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 question 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New: here, unpublished, i.e. more explicitly: did the First World War give rise to a set of wars, which differs from all the wars known until then.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 question that pinpoints the problem, 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 20th century, has other motives, and other means?

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

There is no single good question that pinpoints the problem, there are many, but a good classic question that pinpoints the problem 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 outlines 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 outline (3 parts is the outline preferred by historians).

Three 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 systems, process of moral brutalization) (1915–1918)

Beware, the outline 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 affected those who decided to go to war, only the professionals of war. This time, all the human means are solicited, both the professionals of war and the whole society. In particular, propaganda directs the war effort, especially after 1915, when it becomes established that the war will 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 Joseph 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 Adolf Hitler’s party

Joseph Stalinism: Ideology and set of political, economic and social practices developed by Joseph 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 question title commonalities/differences set the stage for a simple and classic, but successful, outline that would also follow in I. commonalities, II. differences, of course, specifically naming these commonalities and differences in the outline announcement.

You will find these commonalities and differences between Nazism and Joseph Stalinism in an article on the Academics in Politics 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 question because I really do not see what question it was referring to or what information or knowledge was expected since the last two questions which precisely dealt with France’s relations with the EU and in the world were not to be studyd… Thank you very much in advance for your answer!

  2. Hello First of all, thank you very much for having made available a correction 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 outline 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 outline concerning the 1st question: it is completely penalizing if the copy does not treat the 1st point of your outline (World War (gear of alliances, from Europe to the world) ? Thanks for your help!

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