Historian Leonard Smith’s Clark Lecture to Explore Mutiny in the French Army in World War I

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photo of Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium
photo of 2018 Clark Lecture poster

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 9, 2018) This year’s Thomas D. Clark Lectureship in the Humanities, presented by the University of Kentucky Gaines Center for the Humanities, will be given by Leonard V. Smith, the Frederick B. Artz Professor of History at Oberlin College, 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, in the Niles Gallery, located in the Lucille C. Little Fine Arts Library and Learning Center. The lecture, “Rites of Passage in French Soldiers' Testimony of the Great War,” is free and open to the public.

The 2018 Clark Lecture will give insight into mutiny in the French army during the war. "I read a book early in graduate school that said if all orders to French soldiers had been carried out to the letter, every last one of them would have been killed by the end of 1915. I spent the first two decades of my career trying to understand what they did instead of following orders to the letter," Smith said.

Smith’s teaching interests include modern Europe, war and society, and French imperialism. He is the author of “The Embattled Self: French Soldiers’ Testimony of the Great War”; “France and the Great War, 1914-1918,” with Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau and Annette Becker; and “Between Mutiny and Obedience: The Case of the French Fifth Infantry Division During World War I.” He also coedited “France at War: Vichy and the Historians.” Smith’s most recent publications include "Drawing Borders in the Middle East after the Great War: Political Geography and 'Subject Peoples'" in First World War Studies and “France, the Great War, and the ‘Return to Experience’” in the World War I Centennial Series of the Journal of Modern History.

Smith has held fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Humanities Center. He has been a visiting professor at the Mershon Center at Ohio State University; École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales; Claremont McKenna College as the William F. Podlich Distinguished Fellow; and the Associated Kyoto Program at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan.

Smith’s upcoming book, “Sovereignty at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919,” will be published by Oxford University Press in April. The publication offers a new perspective on the event, not as a failed experiment in peacemaking, but as an instrumental factor in the creation of a new kind of international cooperation

The Gaines Center's Clark Lectureship provides funding to host a visiting lecturer. The lectureship allows Bingham Seminar instructor(s) to invite a distinguished person in the field of study to present two lectures, one for the public and the other for the seminar. Smith’s lecture is presented in conjunction with the 2018 Mary C. Bingham Seminar on “World War I and Memory.”

The Bingham Seminar provides faculty and students a chance to explore a subject not in the university's regular course offerings. The seminar provides funding to offset the cost of course development and two to four weeks of study either in the U.S. or abroad. Ten students are selected to participate in the seminar by competitive application. 

This semester’s Bingham Seminar on “World War I and Memory” in the UK Department of History is being taught by Professor Karen Petrone, chair of the department, and Terri Crocker, history instructor and senior paralegal in the UK Office of Legal Counsel. Petrone and Crocker’s class will travel to Belgium and France this spring break.

Founded in 1984 by a generous gift from John and Joan Gaines, the Gaines Center for the Humanities functions as a laboratory for imaginative and innovative education on UK's campus. The Gaines Center is designed to enrich the study of the humanities as an intellectual activity and as a means to self-betterment. The center offers courses and sponsors activities that appeal to faculty and students in all disciplinary fields.

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