Finding a New Balance: The Belgian Security System in the Aftermath of WWI
After years of near-total occupation from the autumn of 1914, return to peace in Belgium was characterised by the restoration of state sovereignty over the whole territory now liberated. Security was one of the first fields of intervention for public authorities. By the autumn of 1918, it was indeed necessary to rely on a policing apparatus capable of dealing with the pressing issues of the period, first among which were the repression of so-called “incivisme”, the fight against fast-developing crime, the demobilisation of troops and the administration or reconstruction of regions devastated by combat operations. It was also necessary for state structures to keep abreast of deep political and social transformations now beginning to materialise around universal suffrage or the right to strike. The present contribution highlights the conditions and factors at play in this restoration of order in Belgium. Its analysis focuses on policing aspects and the implementation of public security: how did the policing apparatus reorganise after November 1918? The overall aim is to understand both the “physical return” of police forces across the country and the simultaneous ‘return to power’ of the agents of order by determining which new missions were assigned to them in the face of specific risk factors belonging to the period.