WW1 (fallen) soldiers on-line
databases as artifacts of collective memories

Frédéric Clavert / frederic.clavert@uni.lu / @inactinique

The #ww1 Twitter project

  • 5 millions tweets / 1 million users
    • Data harvesting still going on
      (up to 28 June 2019)
  • Based on keywords and hashtags
    (English / French / German)
    • 80 % of english speaking tweets
    • 15 % of french speaking tweets
    • 5% of other languages

The #ww1 Twitter project

  • Distant reading
    • IRaMuTeQ
      (interface to R for text mining / topic modelling)
    • Gephi
    • etc.

Morts pour la France

  • The tweets with references to (mainly) soldiers declared "morts pour la France" became strikingly numerous
    • Linked to Mémoire des Hommes
    • A website from the French Ministry of the armies

Morts pour la France

  • Why is this database so present on Twitter?
    • Fallen soldiers - Poilus morts pour la France as cornerstone of French collective memory of the Great War
  • The database itself
    • Opened in 2003: merely a database of images of administrative acts with few metadata
    • No budget to enhance it
    • 11/2013: collaborative transcription module

Morts pour la France

  • Twitter/facebook/webforums users intensively used the transcription module
  • 30 April 2018: the 1,4 millions of dead for France and "not" dead for France (+ those for whom the statute was refused) were transcribed
    • Mainly thanks to a private/citizen's initiative called #1j1p (1 jour - 1 poilu)
  • The Morts pour la France database became a virtual lieux de mémoire

Lieux de mémoire
or artifact of collective memory?

Let's ask the question antoher way.


Lieux de mémoire as the result of collective practices.


But is the database the result of a social process
linked to collective memory?


Is it an artifact / trace of collective memory ?

I. Defining criteria
for a comparison

Analysis grid of memorial databases

Inspired by Noiret, Serge, «Histoire et mémoire dans la toile d'histoire contemporaine italienne» in Rygiel Philippe et Noiret Serge, Les historiens, leurs revues et Internet : France, Espagne, Italie, Publibook, Paris, 2005.


1. Url-Uri

2. Title of the database (Website)

3. Publication date

4. Last update date

5. Authors

6. Institutional publisher

7. Access

8. Analytics



Content of the database

1. Object of the database

2. Context of the database

3. Format of the objects contained in the database

4. Is there a historiographical / memorial context?



Content of the website that hosts the database

1. Object of the website that host the database

2. Ends of the website

3. Content of the website

Communication, design
and narratives

1. Metaphor / Nature of the design

2. Organisation of the interface of the database /
of the website?

3. Navigation

4. Communication language

5. Links to other websites / content on other websites


1. The role of the user

2. Collaboration with users and its nature

3. Links to social media

II. Some results

III. Three databases
Three collective memories

Graves or Fallen soldiers?

The underlying question is linked to battelfields.


  • France: main ww1 battlefields were in France
    • Interwar period: each French city/village built its Monument aux Morts - proximity of the Fallen
  • UK and Germany
    • battlefields mainly outside the country
    • Fallen Soldiers were buried near the battelfields, abroad
  • As a result, the statute of fallen soldiers in collective memory is not the same.
    • British and German cases: mediation through battlefields / graveyards / graves.

The statute of the Great War

Underlying question: links between memories of the Great War and memories of the WW2 / statutes of each belligerent during those two wars

  • France: its implication to the Second World War was fundamentaly different than in the Great War. Question of the Occupation, of the Vichy Regime, of its very unexpected statute of winner at the end of WW2. Two very different wars.
  • Germany: WW1 is not an object of collective memory (but used to be in the interwar period) / weight of the WW2 memory

States and collective memory

  • France: the omnipresence of the State in everything collective memory
  • UK and Germany: mixed management of collective memory
    • In the case of Germany: a State whose statute, territory, etc. changed several time since 1871 / Federal State
      • Let to the private sector the management of a problematic memory
    • Central State in UK has not the same nature of the Centralised French State

Past, present, future


Databases as the result of collective memories process / social process

Missing databases

The case of Russia

Update: yes, there is
Памяти героев Великой Войны 1914-1918

Historians and databases

Made with Slides.com