States of Exception: Emergency Government and ‘Enemies Within’ in Britain and Germany during the First World War

Keil, Andre (2014) States of Exception: Emergency Government and ‘Enemies Within’ in Britain and Germany during the First World War. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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This thesis examines the First World War’s impact on the exercise of state authority in both Britain and Germany. The project shows the extent to which expansive and intrusive domestic policies triggered a reconfiguration of the relationship between the state and its citizens. These processes are studied through a focus on the ‘state of exception’ and the wartime systems of emergency government in both countries. Legislation such as the Defence of the Realm Act in Britain and the German ‘state of siege’ laws served as major instruments of emergency rule and thus shaped the policies on the home front. Yet, despite its historical significance, historians have broadly neglected this aspect of the First World War.

In order to address this gap in literature, the thesis examines how the emerging systems of emergency government in Britain and Germany were entangled with political, legal and social developments in both countries. Moreover, it shows how categories of ‘enemies within’ influenced the exercise of emergency powers by the police, the military and the courts. The thesis also considers how dissenting activists reacted to repressive emergency measures and how these experiences provided stimuli for civil liberties activism.

Based on extensive research in German and British archives, this study offers an insight into policy-making on the home front and into the inner workings of the institutions entrusted with enforcing emergency measures. By adopting a comparative approach, it identifies national specificities, yet it also notes striking similarities in the British and German state responses to a totalising war. Despite the different political traditions and institutions in the two countries, the application of emergency powers produced comparable results in several respects.

Overall, this thesis offers a fresh perspective on the ways in which European societies experienced the First World War on their home fronts. It shows how emergency measures sought to enforce endurance and support for the war effort in Britain and Germany. Moreover, it intervenes in the current debates about the legitimate limits of state power in the face of prolonged crisis. This study thus contributes to the understanding of the phenomenon of the state of exception in modern Europe.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: V300 History by topic
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 15 Apr 2019 14:05
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 22:21

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