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Christison, Sir Alexander Frank Philip

Christison, Sir Alexander Frank Philip (1893–1993) Britain's excellent senior commander in Rangoon and Southeast Asia During World War II, Christison commanded the British forces at Rangoon, where he proved highly effective against the Japanese. By the end of the war, he was the highest-ranking British officer in Southeast Asia, and the honor of accepting the surrender of all Japanese forces in the theater fell to him on September...

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During World War II, Chile presented something of a paradox among South American nations. Although it was the most liberal of those states and was, in spirit, strongly pro-Allied, Chile, while endorsing the anti-Axis resolutions of the Rio Conference, initially refused to sever diplomatic relations with the Axis countries. As a result, Lend- Lease Act agreements were never concluded between the United States and Chile, and...

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Cassino, Battles of

Cassino is a town a mile west of Monte Cassino, a rocky hill about 80 miles south of Rome, atop which was a Benedictine monastery. During World War II, the Germans fortified both the town and the commanding hill. It was, in fact, an obvious strategic choice; the town and its hill provided a formidable defensive position and...

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Cape Matapan, Battle of

On the night of March 28, 1941, British and Italian ships fought at Cape Matapan (now Cape Taínaron), in the Mediterranean, off southern Greece. The battle was the fruit of British intelligence, which, as early as September 1940, had broken the Italian naval code. Ultra intelligence, derived from this decryption, enabled Allied code breakers to decipher a message on March 25, 1941, revealing that Italian warships...

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Cape Esperance, Battle of

The Battle of Cape Esperance was one of many naval battles spawned by the Guadalcanal Campaign. On the night of October 11–12, 1942, a U.S. Navy task force commanded by R. Adm. Norman Scott fought a Japanese force under R. Adm. Goto Aritomo. Its mission was to pin down U.S. Marines onshore with suppressing fire while two Japanese seaplane carriers landed reinforcements. Thanks to advances in...

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Buna, Battle of

Gen. Douglas MacArthur's plan to defend Australia against impending Japanese invasion was not to hunker down in Australia itself, but to take the battle to New Guinea, which he correctly saw as the necessary staging area for any assault on Australia. Thus, the New Guinea Campaign was a defense by means of offensive, and the Battle of Buna, a village on the northeastern coast of...

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Bulganin, Nikolay

Bulganin, Nikolay (1895–1975) deputy premier of the Soviet Union Bulganin was among the coterie of Soviet leaders whose World War II experience elevated them to major roles in the postwar Soviet Union. Born in Nizhny Novgorod, Bulganin was an early member of the Bolsheviks and entered the Cheka (secret police) as an officer in 1918. He was later detailed to manage a state-run electrical equipment factory in...

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Browning automatic rifle (BAR)

One of the most important infantry weapons of World War II, the BAR was introduced in World War I and modified, as the M1918A2, in 1940. It was this version that was used in World War II combat. The new model could be fired only in two automatic modes, slow (300 to 450 rounds per minute) or fast (500 to 650 rounds per minute). Because...

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Brooke, Alan

Brooke, Alan, first viscount Alanbrooke (1883–1963) Chief of the British Imperial Staff Born at Bagnères-de-Bigorre, France, Brooke was educated in French schools and then at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich. He was an officer in the Royal Artillery during World War I and, in the interwar years, rose rapidly as a staff officer and as director of military training in the War Office during 1936–37. His...

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Bougainville Campaign

Bougainville is the largest of the Solomon Islands and is located near the northern end of the Solomons chain in the southwestern Pacific. With the island of Buka and the Kilinailau, Tauu, Nukumanu, Nuguria, and Nissan Island groups, Bougainville is now a province of Papua New Guinea. The island is 75 miles long and varies in width from 40 to 60 miles. Its topography is...

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Bofors gun

The Bofors gun was a generic name for any 75- mm lightweight, highly transportable howitzer that resembled the Bofors 75-mm Model 1934 weapon manufactured by AB Bofors, a Swedish arms maker. Indeed, many nations purchased the original Bofors weapon prior to and during World War II. (Sweden, a neutral in the war, was free to deal with all belligerents.) The original Bofors was a beautifully crafted,...

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To a degree unprecedented in history, combat in World War II was directed against civilian populations, and this was especially the case with air raids, such as the Blitz. Advances in avionics (aircraft instrumentation), radar, and radio-guided direction finding made nighttime air raids not only feasible but common. Brightly lit cities made excellent targets. Even in rural areas, lights were readily spotted from the air. To...

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Bismarck Sea, Battle of the

Thanks to U.S. Navy Ultra decrypts, Allied forces learned well in advance of the movement on February 28, 1943, of 7,000 Japanese reinforcements to Lae and Salmaua on New Guinea's northeastern coast. Fully alerted, the Americans moved large numbers of aircraft into forward positions, and, on March 2, fighters and bombers of the Fifth U.S. Air Force attacked the Japanese troop convoy. One Japanese transport was...

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Bidault, Georges

Bidault, Georges (1899–1983) French resistance leader With Jean Moulin, Georges Bidault was the central leader of the French resistance and underground movements following the fall of France. In postwar France, he served two terms as prime minister and three as minister of foreign affairs. Born in Moulins, Bidault received his early formal education at an Italian Jesuit school. He served in the French Army just after World...

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Biak Island, Battle of

During the New Guinea Campaign, elements of the 41st U.S. Division under Maj. Gen. Horace Fuller landed on Biak (an island off the northern coast of Dutch New Guinea) on May 27, 1944. Their objective was to take this important Japanese air base and seize it for basing U.S. aircraft to support the campaign to retake the Philippines. The Japanese garrison of 11,400 made a...

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Bergen-Belsen concentration camp

Officially, the Germans listed this facility, near Hanover, as a Krankenlager, a sick camp or medical camp. It was, in fact, created as an internment camp in April 1943, but by July was a fully developed concentration camp. It differed from other such camps, however, in that it was divided into two sections. One was used for the incarceration of political prisoners and Jews of...

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Berchtesgaden is a town in southern Bavaria on the border with Austria. Although Berchtesgaden itself is nestled in a deep valley, it lent its name to Adolf Hitler's retreat, officially known as the Berghof, on the Obersalzberg, 1,640 feet above the town. Also perched on the Obersalzberg were chalets occupied by Hermann Göring and Martin Bormann, among other top-ranking Nazis. To all appearances a large holiday...

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Bataan, Death March

After the Fall of Bataan during the Japanese conquest of the Philippines, approximately 2,000 defenders of Bataan managed to withdraw to Corregidor; the rest, about 78,000 U.S. Army and Filipino troops, were left behind and became prisoners of the Japanese. The Japanese code of military conduct, founded on ancient warrior (Bushido) traditions, regarded surrender as dishonorable and therefore sanctioned, even encouraged, the abuse of prisoners in...

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Barbie, Klaus

Barbie, Klaus (1913–1991) Gestapo chief in Lyon, France Dubbed the "Butcher of Lyon" because of his role in the deportation and execution of French Jews, resistance partisans, and others while he was chief of the Gestapo in Lyon from 1942 to 1944, Barbie proved highly adept at escaping postwar prosecution for his crimes and, with such figures as Adolf Eichmann, became a symbol for the pursuit...

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Banzai charge

Banzai is a Japanese word derived from the traditional battle cry of the Japanese warrior, "Tenno heika banzai," "Long Live the Emperor!" In World War II, banzai or a banzai charge was the term applied to an all-out infantry attack Japanese soldiers employed, en masse, against opponents, regardless of disparity in numbers. Typically, the banzai charge did not come at the beginning of an attack but...

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Baltic Sea, action on the

The Baltic Sea is an arm of the North Atlantic, which reaches from the latitude of southern Denmark nearly to the Arctic Circle and separates the Scandinavian Peninsula from the rest of continental Europe. Historically—as it was during World War II—the Baltic has been a strategic waterway, interconnecting many northern European nations. On September 1, 1939, during the invasion of Poland, the Baltic became one of...

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Balloon bombs

Balloon bombs were something of a curiosity in World War II. As early as 1939, the British attempted to float balloons equipped with incendiary bombs over the German Black Forest. The idea was to start massive forest fires, which would deplete Germany's precious supply of timber. The balloons, however, did not even leave English air space, and when the wind suddenly changed direction, one of...

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Baldwin, Stanley

Baldwin, Stanley (1867–1947) prime minister who presided over British disarmament between the wars A Conservative, Baldwin served three terms as prime minister between 1923 and 1937 and was important in the years preceding World War II as a leading opponent of Winston Churchill (at the time, a member of Parliament) on the subject of British rearmament and war preparation. The son of industrialist and railway baron Alfred...

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Balck, Hermann

Balck, Hermann (1893–1982) prominent German field commander According to some of his contemporaries, Hermann Balck was the most skilled, even the greatest, of Germany's field commanders in World War II. He was born in Danzig-Langfuhr, Germany, the son of a general, and entered Hanover Military College in February 1914. During World War I, he served with the 10th (Hanoverian) Jäger Regiment on the western front and remained...

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Balbo, Italo

Balbo, Italo (1896–1940) Italian Fascist and air marshal Balbo, one of the pioneers of Italian aviation, became a leading Fascist early in the movement, and went on to become Benito Mussolini's air marshal, the architect of the Italian air force. Born near Ferrara, he was educated at the University of Florence and at the Institute of Social Science, Rome. During World War I, Balbo was commissioned as...

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