The project postdoctoral researcher, Dr Chris Pearson, is examining militarized landscapes in twentieth-century France, in particular during the post-1945 period. This research analyses militarism’s impact on cultural and material landscapes, the relationship between environmentalism and military organisations, the environmental dimensions of Cold War politics, and the “greening” of the French military in recent years. For instance, the French ministry of defence has recently sought to infuse its activities with a culture of ‘sustainable development’ and lauds its environmental stewardship. Meanwhile, Michael Bess has described France as a ‘light-green society.’ Can his analysis be extended to the French army, air force and navy?

In line with the overall project’s wider focus, research on France addresses a central paradox in the war-environment relationship: how militarized landscapes can become unexpected refuges for animals and plants and consciously managed as conservation sites often superior in natural value to non-militarized lands. Through detailed archival research, Dr Pearson’s research engages in the wider debate between military assertions that preparing for war contains ecological benefits and those who dismiss such claims as a form of propaganda. It also examines how environmentalists and other governmental departments, such as the forestry administration, have challenged the military’s environmental stewardship.

Engaging with the project’s wider research questions, this work explores the expression and representation of local, national, and military identities in the landscape. Analysis of the overlaying of cultural and ecological landscapes - a deserted village on the Canjuers training ground, for instance - complements the studies on Tyneham and other requisitioned villages in the British landscape.

In addition, Dr Pearson is researching the wider historical and geographical emergence of militarized landscapes in twentieth-century Europe, through a detailed analysis of the available secondary literature. This helps contextualize the project’s detailed empirical studies.

Dr Pearson’s work focuses on a series of case studies. These include military training grounds and bases in Fontainebleau forest, Larzac, Canjuers, Mourmelon, Suippes, Bitche, and Camp des Garrigues (among others). Archive research draws on the files of the Service historique de la défense at Château Vincennes and the Centre des Archives contemporaines of the Archives nationals (based at Fontainebleau), as well as various archives départementales.