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Soldiers out of ControlFreiburg-Strasbourg Joint Research Group "Soldiers out of control? An entangled history of accidents in the French and German military"

Dr. Peter Itzen (University of Freiburg); Prof. Dr. Anne Rasmussen (Université de Strasbourg); Dr. Birgit Metzger (University of Freiburg)

With the recent multiplication of Western military interventions, accidents during operations have raised awareness for the military’s vulnerability to non-combat events. Our historical research project proposes to shed light on accidents in the military as a continuous yet variable problem. By looking at the military – in peacetime and wartime - as one of the most relevant social institutions of the 20th century we put the history of accidents into a wider perspective. This project will study a specific social sphere, in which all kinds of accidents take place: the military.

Focusing on France and Germany in the crucial period from 1920 to 1970, we ask whether an entangled history provides a better explanatory framework for risk assessment than, for example the nation-state or an abstract vision. In the first part of our project we look at legal, medical and technical debates in the aftermath of the Great War about the lessons concerning prevention, medical care and rehabilitation of accidents. A second part of our study offers insights in normative discourses about accidents by focusing on a legally and morally relevant aspect of accidents – alcohol consumption. Our project’s final part brings into focus the growing importance of accident prevention when expensive technologies such as airplanes increased the financial risks for the armies since 1945.