Dr. Toke SrDemocratic purges in post-World War II France: Was it all about separating the wheat from the chaff?

Dr Toke S Aidt in collaboration with Professor Pierre-Guillaume Méon (Université libre de Bruxelles) and Mr Jean Lacroix (Université libre de Bruxelles) has been awarded a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant to study Democratic purges in post-World War II France.

Whereas purges are a classic feature of autocracies, they also occur in new democracies that need to prevent the old authoritarian elites from threatening democratic consolidation. Democratic purges, however, must strike a balance between annihilating the threats from the associates of the former regime and undermining the rule of law. The fundamental question is how do new democracies strike this balance?

In 1945, France set up an extraordinary Court aimed at legally purging the members of the Vichy regime. The French National Archives keep the dossiers of the cases considered by the Court. Did the Court bias its sentences and depart from the rule of law and, if so, how? To answer this question, we will investigate the relationship between the networks of French politicians and the sentencing of the extraordinary Court using network and text analysis of the case material in the dossiers. We will furthermore develop a theory of democratic purges.

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