Democratisation from below? The impact of the First World War on the direct interactions between MPs and 'ordinary citizens' in Belgium and France, 1910-1930. 01/10/2014 - 30/09/2018


The First World War is often represented as a catalyst of democratizing tendencies. Populations in Europe and elsewhere wanted to be rewarded with more power for the sacrifices they had paid for the sake of the state. Until today, historians have extensively investigated how this claim was formulated by organized movements and political élites. This project, on the contrary, aims at revealing whether and how this claim was equally expressed by 'ordinary', unorganized citizens. In more concrete terms, the project focuses on the personal interactions between 'ordinary citizens' and MPs in Belgium and France between 1910 and 1930, as they are reflected in the preserved correspondences. Next to tracking the explicit demands for democratizing measures in the letters written by 'ordinary people' to MPs, the project will also investigate whether the general language of these correspondences became more 'democratic'. Moreover, in order to measure the political impact of those democratizing impulses from below, a systematic attempt will be made to follow their traces in the parliamentary actions and discourses of the selected MPs.


Research team(s)