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The Series : « The Encyclopedia of Wars »

The Encyclopedia of Wars is a series of conferences and lectures initiated at the Centre Pompidou in September 2008, with one meeting per month. To do so, I am building up a “War Library”, accumulating all the works, essays, stories, technical books dealing with the subject of war. I do not impose any corpus on myself a priori. I am neither a historian nor a specialist in polemology. I collect sentences, terms, images, numbers. My first job is to read “war books”, to take quotations from them, which feed pre-existing entries or create new ones. It is then an essentially repetitive, mechanical, copyist activity. I am Bouvard or Pécuchet. Of these entries, there are 1031 to date. The first one being Abattre (mort), the last one being Zouave, passing by Abracadabra; Boom; Camping; Hydrography; Tongue (monotonous); Fly (Make); Pastry; Silence (Reduce to); Triperie; Vadrouille (La très grande); Ypres

Assembled for the first time in an editorial corpus, the full collection of The Encyclopedia of Wars’ conferences is accessible on Switch (on Paper) and will be completed with the new conferences to come at the Centre Pompidou.

Jean-Yves Jouannais

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Imposed by the Wehrmacht during the Second World War, the siege of Leningrad lasted almost 900 days. It was part of the “Hunger Plan” launched by the Nazis against the Soviets, stipulating that any food produced in the occupied regions was to be handed over to the occupying forces and the population of the Third Reich. The Soviets drove the Germans back on 27 January 1944 despite colossal human losses (1,800,000 victims, including nearly a million civilians). On 22 December 1942, as a tribute to those who, through their military or civilian action, helped to repel the German troops, the Soviet government introduced the medal for the defence of Leningrad.

A key moment in the Indochina War, the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (in the northern part of present-day Vietnam) in November 1953 pitted the French expeditionary force composed of different units, the colonial and indigenous troops under the command of Colonel de Castries (appointed general during the battle) against the bulk of the Vietnamese troops (Viet Minh) commanded by General Giáp. A ceasefire was decreed on 7 May 1954; it marked the last confrontation of the war and served to speed up negotiations on the withdrawal of France and the settlement of conflicts in Asia through the Geneva Agreements in July 1954.

A strategic bombing campaign during the Second World War led by the German air force against the United Kingdom, the London Blitz (German word meaning “lightning”) began in September 1940 when an armada of 320 bombers escorted by 600 fighters bombed London, killing around 500 people and seriously wounding 1,137. Buckingham Palace was hit on September 11th and on October 10th the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral was struck, later to become one of the symbols of English resistance. The last air raid took place on 21 May 1941 and reached as far as Birmingham. Despite the large number of civilians killed, the tactics used by the Third Reich to demoralise the British people did not work and failed to prevent them from supporting the country’s war effort.

Born around 236-235 B.C., died in 183 B.C., Scipio Africanus (Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus) was a Roman general and statesman, best known for his victorious military campaigns against the Carthaginians in Hispania and the conquest of North Africa.

Launched by Admiral Raymond Spruance’s 5th Fleet and General Holland M. Smith’s V Amphibious Corps, Operation Galvanic refers to an American landing in the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific. A battle ensued against Japanese troops from 20 to 24 November 1943 (the Battle of Makin). This was the first American offensive in the central Pacific region, and also the first time the Americans were confronted from the moment of landing with fierce Japanese resistance, which was well entrenched and well supplied. Nearly 4,700 Japanese soldiers and Korean forced labourers and more than 1,000 American Marines were killed in the 76 hours of fighting, mainly on and around Betio Island.

During the Spanish Civil War, from 8 to 24 November 1936, the Siege of Madrid was a series of battles between different troops, all loyal to the Spanish Republic (the Spanish left, which introduced social and economic reforms by law from 1931 onwards), and Franco’s Nationalist forces. The failure of the latter to advance further into the city represented the first major victory of the Republicans. The Battle of Madrid was a major turning point in the war, creating a stalemate with neither side able to push the other back permanently. Franco’s troops finally succeeded in capturing the Spanish capital in the last days of the war (28th March 1939).

Created in 1911, the Indigenous Regular Forces, commonly known as the Regulares, represented the infantry and cavalry troops of the Spanish army recruited in Spanish Morocco. Made up of Moroccan volunteers under the command of Spanish officers, they played a leading role in the Rif War (from 1921 to 1926) against the Moroccan populations rising up against Spanish and French occupation. They were also active in the Iberian Peninsula during the Spanish Civil War, when they were often considered the elite troops of the Nationalist forces rebelling against the government of the Second Spanish Republic.

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08 October 2020

The Encyclopedia of Wars – Library (of war)

Starting in September 2020, once a month Switch (on Paper) will publish an excerpt from Jean-Yves Jouannais’ Encyclopédie des guerres (The Encyclopedia of Wars). What started out as an experiment in oral literature is gradually taking the form of a book, scheduled for release in 2030. Until then, we would like to bring you a few exclusive excerpts, published here in alphabetical order like the entries in a vast atlas of wars. Today’s entry is “ Library (of war)”.

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