One of the most striking aspects of the Liberation Collection is the huge number of books consisting of personal narratives, containing the memories of people involved in and affected by World War II. Through dealing with these books one becomes very intrigued by and connected with their authors, their experiences and their suffering. Instances of personal narratives in the Liberation Collection vary widely, in terms of the backgrounds to which the authors belonged, in terms of the topics they choose to address or the quality of the publications themselves. But they all share a deeply human and personal view of the tragic conflict. Here is one example. Continue reading
We are grateful to the Managing Editor of the French History Network Blog for permission to reproduce the article by Southampton doctoral student Emily Hooke on a set of cardboard toy theatre scenes depicting the Liberation of Paris. The University Library has these in its Liberation Collection, and they featured prominently in the exhibition which we mounted in 2014.
On a trip to Paris a few years ago, I was wandering along the Seine, glancing casually at the boquinistes when I spotted something interesting: three pieces of cardboard illustrated with scenes from the Liberation of Paris — 19-26 August 1944 — and dated later that year. Looking closer, I could see these sheets were cardboard cut-outs, as the tabs under the figures show (fig. 1, fig. 2, fig. 3). They also contained the only information I have been able to find of them: They were illustrated by Roland Forgues and commissioned by l’Office central de l’imagerie, Paris.
Researching further, I found that these were far from the only representations of the Resistance aimed at youth during the Liberation. Indeed, there was a boom in children’s literature at the Liberation — despite the paper shortages. These sought to repair the damage done by children’s comic books under the Occupation such as Le Téméraire, which framed the Resistance as villains – ‘without morals and without courage’.
The cardboard cut-outs sparked my interest in popular culture, and added a new dimension to my research: youth. Following the Liberation the Resistance became seen as ‘military, patriotic and essentially masculine’ despite evidence to the contrary, and I wanted to see how they fitted into the construction of this gendered narrative. Continue reading
Recently added to the catalogue is a charming introduction to the German language for soldiers stationed at the Citadelle of Strasbourg. Published in 1731, this anonymous work, entitled L’art de bien parler allemand : qui comprend tout ce qui est necessaire pour apprendre facilement & en peu de tems cette langue, à l’usage de messieurs les cadets gentils hommes de la Citadelle de Strasbourg, stands at 7001.d.230. It is clearly a very rare item –we have been able to locate no other copies in the United Kingdom or the United States, and only one in Germany, in the Badische Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe. The catalogue collectif de France gives a further three locations. The Cambridge copy contains a few manuscript notes, and the contemporary ownership inscription of a young soldier, “Liercour, cadet”, on the back cover.
The work begins with a brief general introduction to grammar, which is followed by German phonetics, German grammar, declination, regular and irregular verbs etc. The main section contains extensive topical bi-lingual word lists and glossaries. Terms for food and drink, with descriptions of the separate parts of the meal – starters, main courses, desserts – are explained in detail, and are clearly aimed at a sophisticated French audience. The word lists which follow cover parts of the human body, illnesses, clothing, politics, history, fortification and nature. A special section is of course devoted to war and military vocabulary, ranging from “pressing a soldier into service” to “fighting battles” and “standing guard”.