Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Sources for French military history

In something of a mood for reviews after last week's post, I dipped my pen (? or should that be keyboard?) in critic's vitriol once again, and took a look at Milindex, a searchable bibliography newly mounted on the website of the French Ministry of Defence's Centre de Doctrine d’Emploi des Forces (CDEF).

The bibliography is the work of the CDEF's Research Centre, the Ecole Militaire's Documentation Centre and an un-named university. The database includes the following older titles:

Journal des Sciences militaires (1825-1914) (available on Gallica),
Revue d’artillerie (1872-1939) (available on Gallica),
Revue de cavalerie (available on Gallica 1905-25), 
Revue d’infanterie (1887-1939) (available on Gallica),
Revue des Sciences Politiques (1911-1936) (available on Gallica),
Revue des troupes coloniales (1902-1939)
Revue du génie militaire (1887-1959) (available on Gallica),
Revue du service de l’intendance militaire (1888-1959)
Revue militaire générale (1907-1973) (available on Gallica),
Revue militaire de l’étranger (1872-1899)
Revue militaire des armées étrangères (1899-1914) (available on Gallica),
Revue politique et parlementaire (1894-1971) (available on Gallica),
Revue d’histoire de la guerre mondiale (1923-1939) (available on Gallica),
Spectateur militaire (1826-1914) (available on Gallica).

As well as the more modern :
14-18, le magazine de la Grande Guerre (2002-2012)
Cahiers du Centre d’Études d’Histoire de la Défense (1996-2008)
Comparative Strategy
European Security: an International Journal
Contemporary Security Police
Conflict, Security & Development
International Security
Mediterranean Quarterly: a Journal of Global Issues
Quarterly Journal of the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad
Revue historique des armées (digitised from 2006 here; index for 1960-2005 also available here as a .pdf) 
Strategic Studies

It's free to access, but you still need a username and password (if access is free, then why do you need them???). Click on the Accéder .. link. The user name is <milindex>; the password is <recherche>. You then get a choice of searching by year of publication, author, journal title, or title keyword. Click on the search you want to perform, then enter your term. The search itself is fairly basic.

What you cannot do is filter the search results. So, if you were interested in Great War aviation, then simply entering 'aéronautique' brings up 164 hits, from 1885 to 2009; while searching under 'aviation' brings up 191. The results are presented in a neat table. You can, however, order the results by any of the fields, for example by author, journal, or publication date, by clicking on the column heading. So finding those published around the period of the war can be isolated relatively easily. But you still have to look through the rest for the modern studies.

Neither can you combine keywords to produce a more comprehensive search. Searching under 'escadrille' produced references that did not appear either under 'aéronautique' or 'aviation', so before starting, make a good list of synonyms.

Return to the search page by clicking on 'Return to Reports' in the top right-hand corner.

Other searches I did on the site:
Artillerie des tranchées / crapouillots -  10 hits from 1925 to 1977
Bombardement -  35 items from 1838 to 2010
Drapeaux - 22 hits from 1831 to 2012 (plus further hits from 'drapeau', 'étendards' and 'fanions')
Légion Etrangère - 32 hits from 1850 to 2012
Mitrailleuse - 253 hits between 1870 and 2011
Tranchées - 17 hits from 1888 to 2010

Some of these numbers look remarkably low, but I may simply have struck unlucky. News from other searchers would be welcome.

All in all, it seems to be an invaluable index to what has been published in the French military press. The search would perhaps benefit from more functionality, but doesn't make the site unusable by any means. Searching produces a list of references that are more clearly and more quickly presented than doing the same search on Gallica.

However, you cannot download your list, either as a .csv, for example, nor into Zotero - so you may have a lot of typing on your hands. I was able to highlight the table of results by clicking and dragging, and then copyed and pasted it into Open Office, where it appears as a conventional table.

Given that the contents are now indexed, it is a shame that the Bibliothèque Nationale has not digitized the Revue des Troupes Coloniales, nor, while I'm thinking about it (with Kings of the Air in mind), the Revue de l'Armée de l'Air (which isn't even indexed on Milindex), and they are soooo sloooow in finishing the digitization of Les Armées Françaises dans la Grande Guerre. Which is not wholly relevant to Milindex, but gets it off my chest.


Edit: an analysis of the contents and authors of La Revue d'Artillerie based on the index, appears at the CDEF's in-house blog, at http://maisondesidees.blogspot.fr/2013/12/la-revue-dartillerie-par-julie-dandurain.html?spref=tw

Pictures: specimen title pages of Revue d'infanterie and Revue d'artillerie (from Gallica); the cover of the latest issue of 14-18 Magazine (from its website); the cover of the most recent Revue historique des armées to be digitized; title pages of Revue de cavalerie and Revue militaire des armées étrangères (likewise from Gallica).

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