A Barbaric Weapon? Representations of chemical weapons, and the reproduction and use of the Chemical Weapons Taboo in French and German national newspapers from 1899 to 1925.
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Interest in the Chemical Weapons Taboo rekindled in 2013 when the international community argued in favour of military interventions against the Assad regime in response to its use of sarin gas in the Syrian Civil War. Recent academic publications on the topic proceed from the view that the Chemical Weapons Taboo is socially constructed and cannot be rationalised through essentialist or realist arguments. This view was originally established by Richard Price in 1997 who mapped out the construction of the Taboo with a strong focus on the political perspective. This thesis seeks to expand Price’s research by investigating the views of French and German national newspapers from the Hague Declaration of 1899 to the Geneva Protocol of 1925. In particular, this thesis focusses on how chemical weapons were represented in these newspapers and what these representations reveal about the reproduction and use of the Chemical Weapons Taboo. For that purpose, all articles containing the term “asphyxiating gases” and/or “deleterious gases” were considered in the French newspaper, Le Matin, and the German newspaper, Berliner Tageblatt. These newspapers suggest that representations of chemical weapons changed significantly over time, ranging from disregard, to abhorrence, to acquiescence. Consequently, the reproduction and use of the Chemical Weapons Taboo were often situational and sometimes even highly inconsistent.
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