Conceptualising the ‘Administration of the Dead’: Cadavers, war and public health in the early 20th century

Romain Fathi

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This article examines the relative absence of historical literature pertaining to the battlefield disposal of military corpses during and shortly after the First World War. It posits that while First World War Studies constitute an enormously rich field of research, scholars are yet to consider corpses and their disposal as a central topic of investigation, as is the case with other disciplines and historians of other conflicts. To address this lacuna, this article proposes the notion of ‘administration of the dead’ that may serve to both conceptualise and explore how First World War battlefield body disposal was performed. This article demonstrates the rich avenues that this topic opens to historians and sketches out areas of investigation such as the administrative, medical and technological dimensions of body disposal in the First World War.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12758
Number of pages11
JournalHistory Compass
Issue number2
Early online date15 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • World War 1
  • Military corpses
  • Body disposal


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