Leadership and the French Mutinies of 1917

Tuesday, June 20, 6:30 p.m.

In early 1917, the new commander of the French Army, Robert Nivelle, was confident he had finally solved the problem of the Western Front and would deliver a decisive blow to break the deadlock against Germany and place the Allied cause on the road to victory. This confidence proved misplaced. The Nivelle Offensive failed to fulfill the grand hopes it inspired in April 1917. After the Offensive, Nivelle was promptly relieved of command and replaced by the hero of Verdun, Henri Petain, who found that he had a massive problem on his hands. In late May 1917, open mutiny swept through much of the French Army and for weeks Petain had to deal with a flood of reports of disciplinary breakdowns accompanied by open protests by the soldiers regarding their plight. In a remarkable feat of personal leadership, Petain was able restore discipline to the French Army. This presentation describes the causes and course of the great mutinies, how Petain was able to bring them to an end, the deeper divisions in French society the mutinies reflected in 1917, and how they had an enduring effect on France's history for decades to come.

Dr. Ethan S. Rafuse received his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and since 2004 has been a member of the faculty at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, where he is a professor of history. He has given presentations to the Naval War College, Mershon Center for International Security Studies, U.S. Military Academy, Society for Military History, and Dole Center for Politics. He has published over 300 articles, essays, and reviews in a variety of academic and popular history journals, and is the author, editor, or co-editor of eleven books.

The John J. Pershing Lecture Series is presented in partnership with the Command and General Staff College Foundation. Cash Bar/Small plates available. FREE with RSVP | J.C. Nichols Auditorium