will give a presentation on
Do political leaders alter the course of history by changing political preferences and behaviours? We answer this question by showing how World War I combat exposure to Philippe Pétain - a French general officer at the time who later served as the Chief of State of Vichy France from 1940 to 1944 - led people to collaborate with the German occupant and the Vichy regime. Uniquely in the literature, we digitized a newly declassified dataset on nearly 100,000 individuals who collaborated during World War II. We also construct a new dataset of all the location of the regiments that fought during World War I, in particular during the Battle of Verdun Pétain is consider the "victor" of. We find that communes where regiments fought the Battle of Verdun under direct command of Pétain in 1916, compared to similar communes that fought the same Battle under a different general, had 30% more collaborators during WWII. We show that rotation at Verdun under Pétain was as good as randomly assigned. Yet, in those communes, more people joined collaborationist paramilitary groups, militated in collaborationist political organisations, or directly collaborated with the Nazi regime e.g by joining the Gestapo. We also provide evidence that this translated into a durable Left-Right swing in post-War France.
(joint with Anna Dagorret, Pauline Grosjean and Saumitra Jha)