‘For noble and valiant France’: French-Australian relations, French Australian identities during the First World War
AuthorGeorgelin, Pauline Mary
AffiliationSchool of Languages and Linguistics
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
Completed under a Cotutelle arrangement between the University of Melbourne and University Paris Nanterre
© 2020 Pauline Mary Georgelin
This thesis investigates the perception, projection, and mobilisation of French identity in Australia during the First World War. Australia’s participation on the Western Front from 1916 onwards meant that more Australians than ever before had a tangible connection with France, and it became a place of trauma as well as fascination. Yet, from the beginning of the conflict, French identity, language, and culture took on a heightened significance in Australia. French-Australians and their networks of francophones and francophiles played an important role in shaping this mobilisation of identity and culture, despite their numerically small proportion of the population. Drawing on a wide variety of French and Australian sources, this thesis examines the responses of French-Australians to the war and analyses how French identity was expressed in both civilian and military contexts. This thesis represents the first study to incorporate an extensive use of French sources to examine Australia’s First World War experience, and to analyse the role played by French-Australian relations. The French sources, notably the French diplomatic archives, demonstrate that the discourse regarding French identity was driven by a diverse range of people, in multiple spheres, and on many levels of society. French-Australian connections and networks based on social, political, cultural, and linguistic identities reveal a transnational influence which is not widely known. From diplomats and government officials, to businessmen, soldiers, charity workers and the ordinary man on the street, many people took part in, and were influenced by, the discourse. In the public domain, French national identity, French cultural imagery and essentialised images of France and French people were linked to the rhetoric of patriotism and were used to influence public opinion and support for the war. On the home front, the French-Australian fundraising organisations drew on transnational connections and successfully combined cultural representations with patriotism and fundraising. In the military sphere, French national identity had implications for men of military age who were subject to French military service obligations, and their experiences reveal a wide range of opinions and attitudes towards French identity. Examining how French identity was projected and mobilised, by whom, and for what purpose, provides a new perspective from which to understand this pivotal period of Australian and French shared history.
KeywordsFirst World War; Transnational history; Australia; Cultural History; French-Australian relations
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