During World War I, as the frontline was replacing national borders, more than 12 million Europeans were at one time or another obliged to flee the war and become “refugees”.
Those who were leaving the combat zones, those who were evacuated by military authorities, internees and returnees to the unoccupied part of France had various experiences but they all shared more or less forced displacement and a durable exile. In 1918 in France 2 million refugees, mainly from the North and the East, were still living far away from home.
In 1914-1918, displaced persons were at the heart of this new kind of conflict. They were an issue for all the belligerents who had to organize, guide and control the movements of populations.
As we follow these civilian movements on the western front, this “great upheaval” allows us to rediscover how World War I deeply changed the horizons of European populations.