Part of the seminar series: ‘Young in Dangerous Times: Children and Youth in Global History’
'Children, adults and bombs in wartime France: interaction, understanding and agency in oral narratives of the Allied bombing'
Dr Lindsey Dodd (University of Huddersfield)
Over a fifth of the Allies' European bombs fell on France between 1940 and 1945, killing around 57,000 civilians. Until recently, research into the bombing of France has been sparse, perhaps because French history remains weighted towards themes more clearly linked to resistance and collaboration. In 2007, bombing was described as 'the last "black hole" of French collective memory of the Second World War'. But by focusing on 'collective memory' we detract from the event and its experience as lived by individuals.
My research uses oral history to explore the experiences of people who were 'young in dangerous times': children who experienced the Allied bombing in three towns - Brest, Lille and Boulogne-Billancourt. French children's experiences of war remain understudied: neither resisters nor collaborators, children lived for four years in dangerous circumstances in a country occupied, exploited, and threatened by military activity.
In this paper I focus on four areas: child-adult interaction during bombing, children alone during bombing, children as children during bombing, and children-now-adults reflecting on bombing. I will consider certain methodological problems of studying childhood in the past, and on key issues such as children's agency, parents' role in mediating danger, traumatic memory, and the hierarchisation of victimhood.
SEMINAR SERIES FUNDED BY LANGUAGES, HISTORY, THE CENTRE FOR EAST EUROPEAN AND LANGUAGE-BASED AREA STUDIES (CEELBAS), AND THE CENTRE FOR CHINESE STUDIES (CCS)