Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The letters of French and German soldiers in World War One

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posted on 2021-11-14, 22:54 authored by Sippel, Rebekka

This thesis uses letters written by French and German soldiers to investigate the mobilization of masculinity during World War One 1914-1918.  Through the letters of French and German soldiers of World War One, the thesis discusses the initial ways the soldiers were encouraged to enlist, which includes discussions on patriotism. The work also discusses the concepts of brotherhood and equality, and the idea of protecting women. While masculinity in these two societies was highly militarized, the soldiers took their role as domesticated men very serious and rarely followed instructions from censors as to what to write to their families. Although soldiers were separated from their loved ones and relationships were truly strained by separation, they never forgot their role at home.  A comparative framework has been employed to highlight significant differences in French and German ideals of masculinity. This includes an emphasis on religion among French soldiers and the concept of Heldentod in German letters.  The analysis of hundreds of letters in published or digitized collections complicates the image of French and German soldiers portrayed in both official propaganda and historians’ work. For example, French and German soldiers had different ideas concerning thoughts on the enemy and equality within the army took on different forms as well. Yet the soldiers from both nations had similar notions regarding goals of personal survival and the defence of the country.  Studies of World War One soldiers’ letters have overwhelmingly focused on English language sources. Therefore, an overall aim of this thesis is to contribute to existing research in the English language by using French and German sources. The aim of translating these letters is to facilitate the availability of foreign language sources for English-language historians.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Hunter, Kate