In Belgium the image of the Great War was for a long time overshadowed by the Second World War, or else simply reduced to the dreadful living conditions in the trenches of the Yser. This first “full-scale war” affected people to such an extent that historians believe it concludes the long 19th century.
For a few decades life under the occupation, which between 1914 and 1918 was the lot of the majority of Belgians, has been the subject of a total re-evaluation in which Brussels, the only capital of Western Europe to be occupied for such a long period, holds a special place.
The talk will take a quick look back over key moments of the conflict which have marked the life of Brussels inhabitants, before revealing the tangible and intangible traces it left behind in the capital. We will then demonstrate how and why these traces have been used within the context of commemorations on an unrivalled scale. It will be the opportunity to make an initial assessment of these events and to reflect upon their contribution to the dissemination of historical knowledge.
Serge Jaumain is a lecturer at the ULB in the History, Arts and Archaeology department. He is also president of the Brussels Studies Institute.