Subaltern War Experiences in the First World War. Non-European involvement in Belgium and Northern France, 1914-1920. 01/11/2015 - 31/10/2016


During the First World War approximately 4 million non-white people were enrolled in the armies. Many of them served in Europe. It was the very first time in history that so many non-whites were transported to what the Indian historian Santanu Das has called "the heart of whiteness". Here, they were confronted with utter barbarism in the continent that was regularly presented as the "cradle of civilization". I will explore the consequences, both short- and long-term, both on the individual and on a collective level, of these engagements in several domains of human activity : politics, culture,etc. Therefore, I will sketch the reasons why minorities or 'minorized majorities' from a (semi-)colonial context were tempted to join the war effort and brought over to Europe, how their experiences of reiteration and alienation in the Great War led to disillusionment and ultimately to political action and an often contested legacy lasting to today. In order to guarantee the feasability of the project, it will include only the Indian, Chinese and West-Indian troops that were engaged in the war efforts of the British Army at the Belgian front.


Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project