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Challenging the German Empire: Strategic nationalism in Alsace‐Lorraine in the First World War

Nations and Nationalism

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["Nations and Nationalism, Volume 27, Issue 4, Page 1009-1025, October 2021. ", "\nAbstract\nThis article introduces the concept of ‘strategic nationalism’ to explain the shift of national allegiance of most Alsatians and Lorrainers from Germany to France during the First World War. Combining the historiographical concept of ‘national indifference’ with rational‐choice theories of nationalism, the article examines why a growing number of local citizens came to defy the authorities' relentless demand of national loyalty. Contrary to previous studies that emphasize the dictatorial character of the regime and the passivity of local citizens, the article argues that national attitudes were shaped by strategic interests and highly responsive to shifts in state policy, regional circumstances and the course of the war. From mid‐1918, it was less escalating state repression or dormant Francophile sympathies, but half‐hearted liberalization of policy, the authorities' unfaltering insistence on national loyalty and imminent military and economic collapse that prompted people to see France as an attractive alternative to German rule.\n"]