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Tag: First World War

The Next of Kin Memorial Plaque and the Family Connection

Written by Ann-Marie Foster.

The amount of personal mementoes brought to centenary events proved that family objects are at the core of many people’s understanding of the First World War. And why wouldn’t they be? These are objects that people associate with family members, use to tell stories about the past, and want to preserve for future generations. These family connections are present in many objects. Handkerchiefs, trench art, and postcards, are all examples of items which families kept as they reminded them of their loved ones. This blog focuses on one of the most enduring forms of family memorial item: the Next of Kin Memorial Plaque.

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Ypres: Great Battles.

Reviewed by Matthew Haultain-Gall.

Ypres. For well over one hundred years now, the name of this Belgian town has become shorthand for the death and destruction wrought by the First World War. But why? For whom? And which Ypres? After all, hundreds of thousands of combatants from dozens of nations fought several major battles in the ‘immortal salient’, each of which generated their own distinctive narratives. These questions are at the heart of Mark Connelly and Stefan Goebel’s fantastic Ypres, which painstakingly strips back the layers of this dense, multifaceted lieu de mémoirefrom the turn of the twentieth century to the First World War centenary.

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Reflections on the Centenary: An Important Moment for Education and the Memory of the First World War

Written by Natasha Silk.

As the Centenary of the First World War ends, it is time to reflect on the conflict as a whole and consider how the commemorations have unfolded. We are likely to see a raft of new literature in the coming months discussing the impact of the Centenary on British collective memory of the war. It is undeniable that the events of the last four and a half years have influenced the way we, as a society, view the war. Some have argued that we have allowed the story of the dead to overwhelm the way we have approached the Centenary. Certainly, the commemorations and remembrance services for the dead have been centre stage. However, many have used this opportunity as a platform to educate the wider public about the war, including more marginalized areas. It seems that these two aspects of the Centenary commemorations have gone hand in hand. This post considers how education and remembrance have worked together to create the Centenary’s own legacy.

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‘What the Poppy means’: The Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal

Written by Amy Harrison.

On 17 October 2018, the Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU) posted a news article entitled ‘No, we did not ban poppies or Remembrance Day at Cambridge University…’. Their piece follows a series of articles appearing in national newspapers (although predominantly tabloids) which suggested that the students had voted against a motion to increase and promote Remembrance events among the student population as these were thought to ‘glorify’ the conflict. This news led to a severe backlash for the Union involved, with even the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough telling the Daily Telegraph that the motion brought ‘“great shame” to Cambridge and shows “disdain” for the armed forces’. However, as with many controversial news stories, it was not all as simple as it appeared to be, and the 17 October response hit back at these assumptions. The CUSU condemned the actions of the press, suggesting that they ‘have used Remembrance Day and Cambridge students as political football’ and led to death threats and online abuse being sent to students involved. The main motion (to advertise Remembrance Day more fully) was adapted to include all those affected by war, and both were defeated in the understanding the Union’s engagement with Remembrance Day would continue as normal.

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New Publication: David Budgen, British Children’s Literature and the First World War: Representations since 1914

2018 sees the publication of British Children’s Literature and the First World War by Dr David Budgen, Associate Lecturer in the School of History and member of the centre for War, Media and Society, University of Kent. Dr Budgen’s study focuses on changing perceptions of the First World War throughout the 20thcentury in children’s literature. Drawing on novels, school textbooks, and story papers, Budgen charts how perceptions of the conflict have changed from 1914 to its…

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Preaching to the Converted?: Boys’ and Girls’ Fiction as Propaganda, 1914-18

Written by David Budgen.

Children growing up in the era of the First World War were encouraged to help with the war effort in a number of ways; between 1914 and 1918 they collected conkers and wool from hedgerows, gathered salvage, and worked in war industries and on the land.  Much of their leisure time too would also have been taken up with the war.  In particular, a wealth of fiction – novels and story papers – utilised the war as a setting.  ‘Perhaps,’ argues Niall Ferguson, ‘the grim truth about war propaganda was that it had the greatest influence on the social group which mattered least to the war effort: children’.  This influence can be seen in the aforementioned ways in which children partook in the war effort.  And yet, although children’s books were undoubtedly topical responses to relatively contemporary events, the extent to which these works functioned as propaganda is worthy of some discussion.

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Serial Propaganda: Replicating the Trope of ‘Barbarous’ Germans in British Boys’ Story Papers during the First World War

Written by Thomas Stephens.

British boys’ authors writing during the First World War embraced the conflict as a new arena for their fictional heroes. Stories about the war were at a premium from 1914 onwards, and many authors also took the opportunity to use their publications to mobilise youth to help in the war effort. Those writing about the war for boys got information about the conflict using information from a combination of newspapers, official propaganda, personal knowledge, rumour, and imagination. In 1914 and 1915, a flood of stories focusing on the conflict appeared in boys’ literature. But by 1916, many story papers such as the Boys’ Own Paper, Magnet, and Boys’ Friend returned to primarily running humorous public-school stories or colonial adventures. These topics gave readers an escape from the sombre matter of industrialised warfare. Wartime inflation and loss of staff also made returning to easily reprintable stories a sensible idea. Many novels and some adventure serials, like Chums, continued to feature narratives about the front throughout the conflict.

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When Propaganda (Studies) Began

Written by Stefan Goebel. It was during the First World War that the modern age of propaganda began. Propaganda has, of course, a much longer tradition, but the years 1914-1918 mark a watershed. Propaganda became a central plank of the war effort, pervading public (and private) life. Moreover, it was during this war that the contours of a new academic subject – propaganda studies – began to emerge. Official propaganda grew from being a sideshow…

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