2010/4 Summaries


Volkskundige aspecten van meer dan honderd jaar conscripties en loting (1798-1909)
Customs in Flanders Regarding Conscription and Substitution (1798-1909)
The French revolutionaries introduced – in France as well as in the occupied terri­tories – a compulsory military service for all young men, regardless of their social class (Law Jourdan, 1798). The adequate number of men to be enlisted was reached by means of drawing lots. That is why there was a lot of magie, black and white, in order to draw the lucky number. Conscription was a mile-stone in the life of young men: leaving their childhood behind and becoming adults. The day(s) the conscripts lelt their family to go and draw the best lot, they became an unruly and defiant group, roaring provocative songs and looking for trouble with other groups of conscripts. The police were always to accompany these unmanageable youngsters. The lucky as well as the unlucky ones often ended up intoxicated. But, as time went on, Napoleon allowed the well-to-do to look for a a substitute for their sons (1802-1880). Crimps recruited these volunteers and notaries drew up the contracts. That is why the 19th century army consisted mainly of poor people and adventurers. Desertion was rampant and therefore the allotments for the substitutes were spread over the whole period. Sometimes only an interest was handed out on a monthly basis. At the end of the 19th century, as antimilitarism grew and the call for more social equality became louder (universa’ suffrage), some political panties were able to intro-duce new conscription laws and get them voted (1909).




De dienstplicht in België historisch bekeken: een politieke en militaire evolutie (1830-2010)
The History of Conscription in Belgium: a Political and Military Evolution (1830- 2010)
The evolution of compulsory military service in Belgium has a turbulent history. When the French introduced the militia service with drawing lots and the possibil­ity of being replaced in 1798 in the area that now constitutes Belgium, this “blood tax” encountered heavy resistance, even resulting in a peasant revolt. The system was kept unchanged during the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815-1830) and even used after the Belgian independence. To lessen resistance, the numbers, years of service and exemptions were adjusted. Despite a long struggle during virtually the entire reign of king Leopold II to introduce generalized personal military service after the Austro-Prussian war of 1866, this would only happen just before the First World War. Finally it was introduced under socialist pressure. After the two world wars and the introduction of universal suffrage the duration of military service became an electoral weapon that dearly illustrated the general Belgian aversion for the military. During the Korean War, both the effectives of the Belgian army in peacetime and the service time peaked. Thereafter service time gradually decreased (with some exceptions), mainly due to political advance bidding. The larger impact of more technically advanced weaponry and the ensuing professionalization of war­fare continued to put the compulsory military service under pressure. The end of the Cold War and the beginning of Belgian involvement in peacekeeping missions at the beginning of the 1990’s, increasingly questioned the status of conscripts. In 1993 the compulsory military service was eventually suspended and the switch was made towards a professional army. In 2010, to compensate for manpower gaps in combat units, a voluntary military service has been introduced.




Herinneringen in steen en op papier. Monumenten en prentbriefkaarten voor twee heldinnen van de Eerste Wereldoorlog: Gabrielle Petit en Edith Cavell
Memories in Stone and Lighting. Monuments and Picture Postcards of Two World War One Heroines: Gabrielle Petit and Edith Cavell
In this article we will look at Belgian memories of two World War One heroines, namely the British bom nurse Edith Cavell (1865-1915) and the Belgian spy Gabrielle Petit (1893-1916). Both women were executed by the Germans for anti­German activities and their deaths gave rise to a lively post-war cult of remembrance. Within this context of a broad cult, we will first look at the history and form of three monuments erected for both women in the immediate post-war period in Brussels (Cavell monument, Peperstraat 1918; Cavell-Depage monument, Edith Cavellstraat 1920; Petit monument, Sint-Jansplein 1923). These monuments stand out as they were actually the first monuments erected for contemporary women as individuals in Belgium. Second we will look at photographic representations of these monu­ments on picture postcards. These postcards aren’t solely `photographic doubles’ of the monument, they also highlight new layers of meaning and thus contribute to the archive of visual memories of both women.




Wat schaft de pot? Zelfredzaamheid aan het Belgische front in 1914-1918
What Do We Have to Eat? How to Help Yourself in the Belgian Anny at the Front of 1914-1918
The Belgian army was not well prepared for war in August 1914. For troops in the field, it counted on the deliveries by civilians. During the German invasion, the food supply became a disaster. After the western front was frozen in November 1914 the French authorities delivered bread and cattle. Also frozen meat, canned flesh en fish, dried and salted herring were delivered. Because of the protests of the troops the army was obliged to install their own production facilities for food. Troops wanted the Belgian “taste”. They were also specialised in ‘finding’ their own food by hunt­ing and cultivating gardens. In 1918 last year of this war of attrition – the army was very capable and well organised on the so called food front.



“…. en de soldaat trok de wereld in“. Afgedankte soldaten in het geheugen van de Europese sprookjes

Disbanded Soldiers in European Folktale Tradition
Disbanded soldiers are folktale heroes. However, the wide variety in European folk­tale soldiers has all but disappeared from today’s communicative memory. It seems they are only remembered by small communities of military-historical parties like collectors and researchers of folktales and culture-historians. As such, the actual interest in military-historical recollection of soldier folktales has only been awakened by the fascination about the unusual “positive publicity” of folktale heroes, in con­trast to the stigmatization by the government of the disbanded soldiers as “country scourge” of the early modern period. To what degree the cultural standards and val­ues as well as the collective experiences in the past have influenced the image of the disbanded soldier and the recollection of soldier folktales is the theme of this study. In addition, the contribution points to the possibilities to question folktales con­cerning the perception, appraisal and presence of disbanded soldiers. Even the plu­rality of the representations of disbanded soldiers in folktales can be placed from a cultural-historical point of view.