The centenary of the Great War is the perfect occasion for the Conseil Départemental de la Somme, and its many partners, to highlight the rich heritage, scenic beauty and important remembrance aspects of the Somme. At the heart of the Conseil Départemental’s objectives for this highly anticipated event is the desire to help improve knowledge of the history of the First World War. That was the main reason behind the publication of The Somme in the First World War educational booklet, which was handed out to the Somme’s Year 10 students at the beginning of the academic year.
And, in addition to these emblematic and uniting projects particularly aimed at the young generations, which the Department is organising throughout the centenary, the consolidation and communication of historical knowledge is also expressed by the major involvement of the Historial, Musuem of the Great War. This is notably shown through its layout, which has been entirely rethought and enriched with the help of the International Research Centre, a renowned institution that promotes scientific research on the causes, evolution and consequences of the Great War and was at the very origin of the Historial.
The Research Centre unites eminent academic specialists from all over the world, and is chaired by Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau.
Furthermore, the International Research Centre honours French or foreign researchers, in all disciplines, who show interest in the causes, evolution and consequences of the First World War. With the support of the Gerda Henkel Foundation and the Conseil Départemental de la Somme, the Centre awards scholarships to PhD students (Etudiants de these in France) who work on these subjects.
Encouraging Scientific Research
Through this academic research, our knowledge of the war and its repercussions is enriched, further developing our vision of the front and rear of the battlefields and also helping us understand aspects of the war that have not yet been completely explored. This is the case of the thesis by Marie Derrien, who was rewarded for her work in 2012. This young researcher became interested in soldiers of the Great War, who were interned in French psychiatric hospitals between 1914 and 1980.
These men make up a category of victims of the Great War whose outcome has remained, for the great majority, unknown. Marie Derrien focused on their care in asylums during the conflict, asylums that were badly prepared to cope with events, but which became essential links in the evacuation chain of the psychologically wounded. By researching the individual paths taken by the soldiers and their families, her thesis studied the reactions of the Army Medical Corps, as well as the lives of these men once the Armistice had been signed. Not entirely recognised as victims of the war, many were considered as predisposed to the condition or suffering from hereditary illness, depriving them of a pension. Others were accorded a place alongside mutilated, injured and sick soldiers, but with treatment that was less beneficial.
Marie Derrien’s thesis also looks at the history of the psychiatric institution in itself, focusing of the asylum’s archives and medical records. The aim of this work consists mainly of determining if the experience of the Great War, and the physiological damage that it caused, helped to advance the treatment given and the social image of physiological trauma.
It is this type of thorough, in-depth work, which explores a variety of aspects of the First World War that the Conseil Départemental, the Historial, Musuem of the Great War and its International Research Centre strongly wish to reward and encourage each year through the Gerda Henkel scholarship.