Paul Sanders

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Paul Sanders, MA (Paris IV), DEA (IEP Paris), PhD (Cambridge), FRHistS (born 23 September 1967, Banbury, UK), is an Anglo-German historian and leadership scholar. He is a full-time professor at NEOMA Businss School, Reims Campus (France). His teaching interests cover international business environment (geopolitics), ethics, leadership and emerging markets (Russia). His research articulates around the topic of duress ethics and leadership, and takes its cues from his historical work. He also has an interest in critical studies involving memory, narratives and discourse. Over the last fifteen years Sanders has established a track record as a game-changer within the historiography of the German Occupation of the Channel Islands in World War II. His first book, The Ultimate Sacrifice (1998), was a significant factor in shaking up a debate that had become polarised after the publication of Madeleine Bunting's Model Occupation (1995), putting this on a scientific footing. In 2004 the Jersey Heritage Trust commissioned him to write a new official history of the Occupation, a project that gave vital impulses to a growing literature in the field. A special copy of the book was presented to HM the Queen, on 9 May 2005. Another area where Sanders has made a contribution is his research on the illegal economy in Western Europe under Nazi occupation. His second monograph (published in France in 2001) was the first academic history dedicated exclusively to this subject. In 2010 Sanders advised Downing Street in conjunction with the 'British Heroes of the Holocaust' award. In 2013 his paper 'Is CSR cognizant of the conflictuality of globalisation?' won an Emerald Literati Network Outstanding Paper Award. He is currently engaged in a study of ethical duress leadership which uses cases ranging from British bombing policy in World War II, the dilemmas of occupation, the Holocaust in Hungary to the Algerian War.


  • Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands, 1940–1945, Bloomsbury, 2014 (co-authored).
  • The British Channel Islands under German Occupation 1940–1945, Jersey Heritage Trust/Société Jersiaise, 2005, XXVIII, 288 p.
  • Histoire du marché noir 1940–46, Editions Perrin, Paris, 2001, 365 p.
  • The Ultimate Sacrifice. The Jersey Twenty and their 'Offences against the Occupying Authorities', 1940–1945, Jersey Heritage Trust, 2004 (2nd ed.), 200 p.

Ethical leadership, social capital and managing under duress[edit]

This research considers leadership under duress in the context of a crisis situation. It draws conclusions on ethical leadership in the light of novel concepts such as 'gray zones', 'dirty hands', legitimacy and 'effective corruption'. Its relevance to current global affairs, and in particular international business, is owed to the fact that globalisation increases grey zones, and with it the likelihood of 'dirty hands' reflexes, and that the management panacea of CSR is incapable of providing a coherent response to this new emerging ethical challenge. Comparative historical case studies can provide evidence of how the solution of extreme duress and dirty hands dilemmas can be 'optimised' through relevant leadership, thereby avoiding below average moral outcomes. One such case in point is the Nazi occupation of Europe in World War II.

The dilemma of the occupied was that they had a natural interest in seeing law and order maintained (rather than growing anomie and anarchy), but that, on the other hand, this 'good government' benefitted not only the civilian population, but also the Nazi occupier. Many relied on the rules-based legal frameworks that governed relations between the occupier and the occupied as a way out of the dilemma, but this was unwise, as 'rules' offered no safeguards against the 'slippery slope' of collaboration and the subsequent implosion of moral integrity. The solution was rather more a question of negotiating an invisible middle ground, and it required a moral compass rather than rules following.

The margin of freedom of the occupied was an important factor in optimising outcomes. These margins were widest in those occupied countries where German rule was indirect, such as Vichy France, Denmark and the Channel Islands. In these countries national governments remained in place, deploying initiative and issuing instructions to local administrations, which could be subject to interpretation. The decision makers and implementers who fared best in steering a middle ground were those who could draw on a measure of Machiavellian virtù; i.e. those who had the ability to seize opportunities, use cunning and outwit antagonists. They combined a unique mix of clairvoyance, ruthlessness, communication acumen and ego one discovers in many successful crisis leaders. At the same time these leaders had the responsibility to keep their communities out of harm's way (Walzer, 2004). This obligation is not limited to assuring bare physical survival; it also includes the obligation of preventing a Hobbesian regression that might tip the scales of community life in a self-destructive direction. This points towards the crucial leadership task of maintaining social cohesion. Genuine leaders consolidate group trust and, if necessary, build a new consensus.

The situation in the Channel Islands may serve as an example. The civilian authorities had to take stock of the interests of the two local constituencies: those opposed to anything susceptible to even irritating the Germans (and amenable to giving in to their demands); and the substantial minority who felt that relying on British prestige to take a firm stance was advisable. The latter anticipated, rightly, that catering to German whims led to spirals of preemptive obedience. This could create a vicious circle of self-reinforcing collaboration, turn denunciation into a public virtue and provide the Nazis with a self-policing environment. The inevitable result would be the destruction of public trust and the emergence of a mutual surveillance society.

The key to avoiding such a scenario was to arbitrate between the two constituencies. In doing so leaders could not afford to be too explicit; they had to discreetly point the way; they had to leave no ambiguity about legitimacy; and they had to take good care of not manoeuvring themselves into catch-22s. The implicit social contract adopted in the island of Jersey, one of the two main self-governing entities of the British Channel Islands, was well-suited to this. It was opportunistic ('live and let live'); armed or militant resistance was never encouraged; but neither was there much effort to proactively frustrate each and every move aimed against occupation government. While open provocation was tabou, islanders were granted the freedom to decide for themselves as far as other forms of contestation were concerned. The signal given to the people was that those who got into trouble with the Germans could not rely on assistance from officials. However, the overall orientation was to neither encourage nor discourage passive resistance. This disposition took into account the growing despondence among the patriotically minded, who might have reverted to desperate means, if they were not given a lid to let off steam (Sanders, 2010; Sanders, 2012).

Narratives, geopolitics and the 'cost of the cold'[edit]

Engaging the new Russia confronts as many obstacles as it solicits differences in approach. Compared to a promising start in the 1990s, today there is more that separates than unites Russia and the West. Some have pointed to geopolitics, others to culture or the 'value gap' as the underlying cause of tension. Less attention has been attributed to cognitive barriers, despite evidence that they are formidable. How important perception is for the Western understanding of contemporary Russia can be gauged from media or academic discussions, many of which are anachronistic or self-fulfilling ('New Cold War'). The negatives memes associated with this perception are reactivated on a regular basis. The pinnacle of this asymmetric perception was the 2008 Georgia crisis (s. BBC Newsnight, 28 Oct 2008 "What really happened in South Ossetia?"). Once the widely shared assumption of "unilateral Russian aggression" was put to the test, it emerged that initial assessments had lacked the necessary caution; alas, too late to revise the critical media threshold, vital to keeping negative images of Russia alive. By the time the Ukraine crisis struck in 2014 narratives became the new hyper-reality. This conclusion may be drawn from slipping media standards on all sides involved in the conflict. The deformation of reality now relies more on the numerous half-truths that slip through unchallenged than on outright lies.

It is for reasons like this that narratives should continue to attract more academic attention; although it is unlikely in a media and public discourse environment (2014) in which Putin bashing now clearly has the upper hand. Narratives and memory are more significant and politically charged than they may appear. One good example would be the acrimonious dispute and geopolitcal fall-out resulting from the removal of a Soviet-era war memorial in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, in May 2007. A social science loan from literary theory, narratives represent "compelling story lines which can explain events convincingly and from which inferences can be drawn" (Freedman, 2006, 22). They are not necessarily analytical or evidence-based, can be more or less virtual, and correspond to a "'telescoping' of logic and temporality" (Barthes, 1977). Narratives rely on deliberate gaps and fashion collective blind spots (Jarausch, 2002). However, their purpose transcends (possible) manipulation, they have a far more important function in the formation and formulation of collective identity (Ronfeldt and Arquilla, 2001), as well as in the structuring of the responses of others to developing events (Freedman, 2006). This link to identity formation explains the persistence and power of narratives. 'Story-telling' responds to an elementary human need for meaning (Sinnstiftung). Although one may deplore the distortion of reality through narratives, in one form or another narrativity always prevails.

Examples of the instrumental role of narratives in the Western relationship with Russia emerge from Martin Malia's The Bronze Horseman (1999) and David Foglesong's The American Mission and the Evil Empire (2007). Looking at the post-Soviet context Stephen Cohen described the principal Western master narrative of the Russian 1990s as the confrontation of "liberals" (supported by the West) and Soviet "reactionaries" or reform opponents. The central tenet of this master narrative was (and is) "democratization". Accordingly, President Yeltsin's liberal policies as well as the efforts of Western governments, NGOs and international organisations were allegedly motivated by a concern for "promoting freedom" (Failed Crusade: America and the tragedy of post-Communist Russia, New York, 2001). This narrative omits that the illiberal seeds of 'managed democracy' were laid in Yeltsin's Russia. Also, Western displeasure with Putin did not commence in 2000 – when the West was undecided – nor as late as the 'Colour Revolutions'. The most plausible chronology for a worsening of relations is 2003–04, when Western hopes of easy access to Russia's energy riches were dashed in the wake of the YUKOS affair. Only then did Western opinion start to interpret Putin's ascent to power in 2000 as the "return of the old guard" and the beginning of a "New Cold War".

Asymmetric vision of Russia is nothing new. In fact, the currently operating Western meta-narrative of relations with Russia is a 'super-story' of engagement driven by the ideological notions of liberty, freedom and, recently, democratisation. It emerged in the early 19th century and, since, has alternated between a quixotic Orientalist search for a Russian civilisational 'black box' (de Custine, A., La Russie en 1839, 1843), and missionary visions oscillating between two extremes: a determination to recreate Russia in the Western image; or the 'abandonment' of Russia, on the basis of 'essentialist incompatibility' (s. Foglesong). During the Cold War era these memes were enriched by the new scientific narratives of 'path dependency' and 'patrimonialism', of which Richard Pipes was the most significant proponent. The recent 'New Cold War' strain belongs into this tradition. The meta-narrative itself has never proceeded in a straight functional line, but, as indicated by Malia and Foglesong, in cyclical movements of indifference-engagement-disengagement. Naturally, as befits Western pluralism, the meta-narrative has never been uncontested; but at the same time it has maintained itself as the towering consensus view in terms of framing historical and current relations between Russia and the West.

Both 'path dependency' and 'patrimonialism' are superseded. Not only do they downgrade the importance of basic environmental and geopolitical factors. They also trivalise the present situation, reducing it to a simplistic dichotomy between 'dictatorship' or 'democracy'. The current deadlock of Russian society points to a profounder dilemma, which is itself the result of a specific type of historical development: while Russia needs change, too much change – and nobody knows where the threshold is – may lead to the disintegration of Russia (witness the 1990s). To adequately frame this dilemma one requires an alternative meta-narrative. This exists within the debate on the impact of physical geography on economic development. If the old Western meta-narrative ended the 'story' with the platitude that Russia is handicapped by her history (indicatively Pipes 1974), then the new geopolitical narrative rightly reduces history (and politics) to a function of geography. The argument is sustained by the triple constraint of climate, distance and reliance on overland transport. Termed the 'Cost of the cold', this factor severely impacts Russian costs of production; in a way that even many raw materials extractions in Russia are not profitable under free market conditions (Lynch 2005; Gaddy & Hill 2003). Faced with 'illiberal geography', a liberal economic regime therefore appears quite dispensable; the traditional interventionist and allocative role of the Russian state, on the other hand, emerges as quite indispensable (Lynch 2005, p. 238). The very visible hand of the state is also needed in another sense: the current raw materials bonanza is not sustainable, as the sources of supply went on-stream during the Soviet period, when ‘funds’ were not an issue. Current-day Russia is living off this substance: once the supply dries up, the shortfall may not be replaced, as the prohibitive start-up investments required for new development projects make these uncompetitive under market conditions. For Russia to be sustainable, it must grow organically, clustering in strategic pockets; first, however, it needs to contract, and this includes the de-urbanisation of parts of Siberia where human settlement is unsustainable under market conditions. While, liberalism is something a downsized Russia could live with quite well, the structurally distorted and unsustainable Russia of today is dependent on state intervention. The catch (or tragedy) is that this contention holds despite the massive levels of predation by Russian bureaucrats. The solution is the problem.

Earlier historical work[edit]

The Channel Islands Occupation, 1940–45

In The British Channel Islands under German Occupation 1940–1945 (2005) Sanders offers an authoritative thematic study covering all aspects of the period, including economics and ethics. The book followed upon a previous publication on the occupation of Jersey, titled The Ultimate Sacrifice (1998). This study had focused on defiance and resistance in the Nazi-occupied Channel Island of Jersey, exploring the cases of 20 wartime residents deported to prisons and Nazi concentration camps for various offences. The Ultimate Sacrifice created a paradigm shift, for in the years preceding its publication the Channel Islands had been the object of adverse publicity in the UK media and academia. This had amounted to collective blanket claims against Channel Islanders for their supposedly collaborationist wartime record. The tactic used by authors and journalists (such as Guardian journalist Madeleine Bunting) to justify their over-focus on collaboration was to minimise or blank out insular opposition to the Occupation. The Ultimate Sacrifice redressed the balance. Sanders did not rely on oral evidence, but pursued the paper trail left by the Jersey 20 in archives across Europe. The book is dedicated to Joe Mière and Peter Hassall, two occupation survivors who made important contributions to documenting the book. The book's research findings provided the evidence for a ceremony at 10 Downing Street on 9 March 2010, during which Channel Islanders Louisa Gould, Harold Le Druillenec and Ivy Forster received the posthumous 'British Heroes of the Holocaust' award.

The author's implicit aim in The British Channel Islands under German Occupation 1940–1945 is to investigate why the Channel Islands occupation remains a misunderstood, controversial, and, ultimately, repressed episode of British history. The key to unravelling the continuing uneasiness does not lie in the notion of 'islanders trying to dodge their historical responsibility', but in narratives and memory. The genuine nexus of the issue is not 'collaboration', but the subalternity of Channel Islanders, combined with the emotionally charged and identity-constituting memory of the Occupation (plus its associated narrative). In fact, the reception of the Channel Islands occupation is a 'seismic zone' where three 'tectonic plates' of mutually exclusive narratives clash: the Leitkultur of UK war memory (the 'Churchillian paradigm'); European 'Vichy syndrome'; and the 'paradoxical' memory of the Channel Islands ('vanquished victor')

The thematic focus of the work is collaboration, resistance, survival culture, economic life and relations between Germans and islanders. Other chapters feature novel approaches to the much-discussed fate of the forced workers as well as to the circumstances of the islands' small Jewish population (this builds on the groundwork of Freddie Cohen and David Fraser). The book also provides an in-depth account of British post-war policy towards island collaboration – a foreboding of the subsequent clash of Channel Islands occupation memory and British war memory.

Professor Tony Kushner, director of the Parkes Institute at Southampton University, described the book in the following terms:

"This book represents an extraordinary achievement. It addresses a controversial past but, through scholarly sophistication, moves beyond the polemic that has so often been associated with the history of the Channel Islands during the Second World War. In no way apologetic or defensive, it manages to convey the acute dilemmas facing Channel Islanders and shows the range and complexity of their responses. It does justice to their unique situation whilst placing the occupation in a comparative framework within and beyond the Second World War. Based on detailed archive work in many different countries it also utilises written and oral testimony to produce a humane and immensely readable narrative that covers all aspects of this remarkable story."

The current extension of this work has moved to the question why resistance in the islands is still an area of contestation. The Nazi occupation in World War 2 is acknowledged as a defining juncture and an important identity building experience throughout contemporary Europe. Civilian disobedience, defiance and resistance is what ‘saves’ European societies from an otherwise checkered record of collaboration on the part of their economic, political, cultural and religious elites. Opposition took pride of place as a legitimising device in the postwar order and has become an indelible part of the collective consciousness. Among previously occupied territories the Channel Islands are the odd one out. Collective identity construction in the islands still relies on the notion of ‘orderly and correct relations’ with the Nazis, while talk of ‘resistance’ earns raised eyebrows. Unsurprisingly, the general attitude to the many witnesses of conscience who existed in the islands remains ambiguous. The stance is justified through the supposedly benign character of the occupation: opposition – so goes the argument – was not only unnecessary, but it also exposed the wider population to the risk of reprisals. Accordingly, it could only have been the handiwork of a delusional or irresponsible minority. Recent studies on atrocities against Jews, forced workers or islanders on the wrong side of occupation law have put this argument into perspective. If it is untenable, or even immoral, to maintain that the German occupation was ‘business as usual’, what is it, then, that prevents genuine acts of heroism from receiving the recognition they deserve, almost seven decades after the end of the Second World War? A tentative answer would be that British common law was not equipped to deal with the double quandary of enemy occupation. 'Doing the right thing' under these circumstances required an ability to navigate a median course between the Scylla of compliance with the occupier; and the Charybdis of patriotism calling for 'something to be done'. Law made no provision at all for the latter disposition, effectively 'stranding' resisters in a legal no-man’s land. The islands' unwritten constitutions magnify this effect, as they maintain the nonsensical fiction of a continuity of British law, despite Nazi rule. Finally, failed attempts to rehabilitate resistance in the postwar period casts a pungent light on the constitutional relationship between the islands and the UK. This is apparent in the handling of a Privy Council appeal lodged by several former members of the Guernsey police force in the early 1950s.

The black market in France during the Occupation, 1940–44

In his PhD work on the wartime black market (published under the title Histoire du marché noir 1940–46, 2001) Sanders stressed the importance of the subject to a correct understanding of the social, economic and political stakes of the occupation. It is these wider implications that led French historian Dominique Veillon (CNRS) to credit the book with leaving a "lasting mark". Sanders' thesis allows for a re-examination of German occupation policy, while also highlighting civilian survival strategies, wealth distribution and the changing occupier-occupied relationship. The author's particular (but not sole) focus is on the German occupier: in France, the latter spent at least 15% of all financial resources available through the Vichy occupation levy on the illegal market. This purchasing started from the onset of occupation. Until December 1941 German economic agencies bought 'anything, at any price'. The uncoordinated bidding led to a black market bubble, the effects of which spilled over into the official markets. Spring 1942 brought the centralisation of German black market purchasing and during the ensuing second phase (until spring 1943) the occupier still bought 'anything', but no longer at 'any price'. Although this stabilised prices, it also encouraged illegal production, with raw materials diverted from official industry allocations. During this second period 50–60% of all Vichy occupation payments were spent on the black market, at a strategic juncture of the war when such extravagance was no longer justifiable. This undermined German finances in France and became a liability to exploitation and collaboration. The third phase of black market exploitation, from summer 1943 to the end of the occupation, was the most rational. During this period the Germans restricted purchasing to genuinely indispensable strategic raw materials. This built on the effective implementation of a German black market purchasing ban in spring 1943, the support of the Vichy government and French industrial leaders for economic collaboration, business concentrations and closures, market monitoring and resource management methods. As a result, the illegal market in the industrial economy was largely brought under control. Sanders argues that the same degree of economic mobilisation could have been achieved one or even two years earlier, had the Germans abstained from unilateral black market purchasing and instead heeded Vichy calls for closer co-operation. German failure in this area was due to lack of co-ordination, institutional chaos, economic dilettantism, endemic corruption and reckless resource competition – all of which have their origin in the structure of the Nazi regime. While the Germans were relatively successful in their exploitation of French and Belgian industrial resources, illegal food markets demonstrated the limits of coercion. As the nutritional value of official civilian rations remained below subsistence level, the French continued to evade all control efforts and depended on the illegal market for their survival: countermanding food restrictions became something of a national pastime. This further punctured Vichy's will-power (and legitimacy) in enforcing thorough economic control over agricultural production.


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