Between 2014 and 2018 Britain, together with many other countries around the world, is commemorating the centenary of the First World War. There have been many hundreds, even thousands, of commemorative activities and events in Britain, ranging from the national and international, such as events to mark significant moments like the declaration of war (Lights Out, 2014) and the Battle of the Somme Centenary (We’re Here Because We’re Here, 2016) and hugely popular artworks, installations and events, most notably perhaps Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London in 2014. Around the country local history groups, school children, arts groups, museums and many others have come together to research, explore and publicise some of the less well known local histories and impacts of the war, bringing to light some of the ‘hidden histories’ of the war years that both illuminate the war’s local impact, and the close ties between this local history and the multiple ways that the war shaped the wider world.
As we move into the final years of the centenary, the am of this project is to explore the legacies of this widespread engagement with, and exploration of, the world of the First World War. How have the new projects and new areas of research that have been created shaped our knowledge of the war years? Has this created a different sense of the war years, and the impact on the conflict on the societies, communities and individuals who experienced it? Are there wider legacies of this widespread engagement with the centenary that we need to reflect on and learn from? Have people developed new skills based on their involvement in centenary activities and commemorative events? What has gone well, and what could we have done differently? Will the legacies of the centenary, as well as the legacies of the war, be shaping people’s lives in future decades?
Funded £300,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Reflections on the Centenary of the First World War: Learning and Legacies for the Future project aims to investigate these questions over three years between 2017 and 2020. Lucy Noakes (Reader in History, School of Humanities) will be working with colleagues at the Universities of Exeter, Glasgow and Kent, and with Dr James Wallis, a Research Fellow in the School of Humanities, University of Brighton, to investigate the impact and legacies of a range of projects commemorating the First World War in Britain. Working with a range of groups and institutions, including projects funded by the Heritage `Lottery Fund, museums, galleries, schools and other groups, the research hopes to explore both the legacies of the commemorative period for diverse communities, and the impact of commemoration on the cultural memory of the First World War.
Dr Lucy Noakes (University of Brighton) | Dr Catriona Pennell (University of Exeter) | Dr Emma Hanna (University of Kent) | Dr Lorna Hughes (University of Glasgow) | Dr James Wallis (University of Brighton)