Sophie De Schaepdrijver
- PhD, University of Amsterdam, 1990
I am a social and cultural historian of modern Europe with an interest in the First World War, civilian experiences of war, war and memory, urban history, and the middle classes.
My first field was 19th-century urban history, with articles on prostitution, migration, and urban planning. My Ph.D. dissertation and the subject of my first book is a study of international migration to Brussels in the mid-19th century, when the city grew fast and became a national capital. As against a rigid urbanization-as-industrialization paradigm, I stress the complexity of the 19th-century urban labor market and the intricate choreography of migrants’ moves and choices.
My second monograph reflects the shift of my interests towards the Great War. I chose to study the experience of Belgium because it has a lot to offer social and cultural historians of war. Belgium was almost completely occupied by the imperial German armies during the war, so experienced a more "civilian" type of war that would foreshadow that of most of Europe and much of Asia during the Second World War. In addition, Belgium was the most densely populated country on the planet at the time; instead of a standardized national culture it had two major languages and fiercely upheld regional particularities; and during the war it benefited from the first global food-aid effort in history, the U.S.-led Commission for the Relief of Belgium. All of this informed its experience of war. My 1997 book on Belgium's First World War experience won prizes and was reissued in 2014.
Since then I have published three books, two edited volumes, two collections of essays, and numerous articles and chapters on the military occupations of the First World War, on Belgium's experience in 1914-1918, on how transnational families experienced invasion and occupation, and on war and memory in literature and politics. I have co-written and presented a four-part television documentary "Brave Little Belgium" (Belgian national television, culture channel VRT-Canvas) which aired in August 2014.
-With Michael Neiberg of Army War College (Carlisle, PA), I have edited "Violence," a collection of work by the leading historians in the field on subjects ranging from weapons technology to the destruction of the ecosystem; this is a section of the international encyclopedia 1914-1918 online, an initiative by the German Research Foundation. It was launched in October 2014.
-Also in October 2014, my monograph Bastion: Occupied Bruges in the First World War was published. It studies the war experience of embattled region through military records, private diaries, statistics, and visuals. Bruges, which in 1914 possessed a famed late-medieval core and a brand-new modern harbour, was not a city on the Western Front, but it was a front city nevertheless: it was built up as a base for imperial Germany's submarine warfare, and subjected to both a harsh occupation regime and Allied air bombing.
-My edited volume Military Occupations in the First World War, a transnational look at the subject, was first published as a theme issue of the journal First World War Studies in 2013 and was reprinted with Routledge in December 2014.
-The U.K. edition of my latest monograph came out with Bloomsbury Academic in January 2015. (The U.S. edition is scheduled for March 2015.) Gabrielle Petit: The Death and Life of a Female Spy in the First World War combines First World war history with biography. It touches upon military occupation, espionage and counterespionage, civilian engagement in war, women’s history, the intersection of war and individual ambition, and the making and forgetting of heroes and heroines.
Awards (most recent)
2014: Commander in the Order of the Crown (Belgium)
HIST 120U Europe since 1848 (honors)
HIST 302W: Middle-class work and ambition in the 19th century novel (U.S., France, Britain).
HIST 420: Postwar Europe
HIST 427: Germany since 1860
HIST 435 The Great War and the 20th century
(graduate course) HIST 527 Societies, Citizens and Violence in Two World Wars: 20th century Europe - taught Spring 2015 - syllabus available upon request