Comité d’études

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The Comité d’études (German: “Study Commission”) was a semi-governmental French research group that specialized in the study of the Saar region and the Rhineland. The commission existed between 1917 and 1918.


The Comité d’études was created by the French Prime Minister Aristide Briand in early 1917. He was advised by Charles Benoît, the dean of the Faculty of Arts at Nancy University. The commission was intended to legitimise and underpin French territorial claims and security guarantees vis-à-vis the German Empire. It was chaired by the historian Ernest Lavisse. To achieve this goal, France’s leading scholars compiled an extensive catalogue of arguments, which were to be based primarily on geography and history. The main arguments were that the Saarland had historically belonged to France several times over a long period of time and that there would be no natural dividing line between the Saarland and the Département Moselle.

In 1917, a memorandum by Paul Vidal de la Blache was published, listing historical rights of France to the Saar region. Another protagonist of the Comité d’études was the French numismatist Ernest Babelon, who wrote a two-volume work on the struggle between Rome and the Germanic tribes and proposed a French military protectorate as a solution to what he saw as a millennia-old conflict. He also used Blache’s research, but committed a falsification of citation to prove a will to return to France on the part of the Saarland population.

During the peace negotiations that eventually resulted in the Versailles Peace Treaty, André Tardieu was appointed as France’s negotiator. He convened the Comité d’études as a government working group and attempted to lay a claim to rule over the Saar region through the group’s research findings. However, this was ultimately rejected. France was merely granted the right of possession over the Saar coal and the Saar region was placed under a mandate of international law until 1935.

Known members

  • Ernest Lavisse (Chairman)
  • Paul Vidal de la Blache
  • Ernest Babelon
  • Christian Pfister
  • Philippe Sagnac
  • François Victor Alphonse Aulard
  • Charles Seignobos
  • Camille Jullian
  • Lucien Gallois
  • Emmanuel de Martonne
  • Ernest Denis


  • Wolfgang Freund: Volk, Reich und Westgrenze. Deutschtumswissenschaften und Politik in der Pfalz, im Saarland und im annektierten Lothringen 1925-1945 (=Publications of the Commission for Saarland Regional History and Folk Research. No. 39). Kommission für saarländische Landesgeschichte und Volksforschung, Saarbrücken 2006, ISBN 3-939150-00-2, pp. 48-52.