« Un trait d’union est nécessaire » - Bringing together approaches from history and translation studies around military interpreters during the First World War.


There has been no shortage of appeals for translation theory to take seriously the history of translation. Anthony Pym remarked that “[m]ost of what are commonly accepted as texts on the history of translation in fact belong to either archaeology or criticism rather, and not strictly to historiography” and although there have been a number of forays into the theoretical field , much remains to be done. On the other side, history, especially of the early modern and modern periods has taken a growing interest in issues of global interconnection, communication and exchange. One particularly interesting approach that has been forward in this direction is that of Bénédicte Zimmermann and Michael Werner . They speak of “[i]ntercrossings intrinsic to the object. Intercrossings in this case have an empirical grounding and constitute the object of research. A particular crossing, together with the analysis of its component elements and the manner in which it operates, as well as its results and consequences, stands in the center of the study.” This paper will draw on both the recent contributions in the history of translation and those of “histoire croisée” to explore the topic of military interpreters during the First World War. Concentrating on the body of French soldiers detached to serve as interpreters for the British and later American armies, we will show how they are a valuable source on Allied communication in warfare and thus contribute to a particularly vibrant area of research around translation, interpretation and conflict . Including military records on interpreters’ performances , memoirs written by interpreters , but also the British officers they dealt with on a daily basis, as well as evidence of their interaction with the civilian population gained from postal control records will enable us to present enough raw historical material to test the different conceptual frameworks.

Dec 11, 2009
Translation Studies Moving In – Moving On.
University of Eastern Finland

Full conference programme

Franziska Heimburger
Franziska Heimburger
Senior Lecturer in British History

My research interests include 19th and 20th century cultural history of military conflicts and language policy in military coalitions.