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Digital Archives, Initiatives and Databases
A collection of 13 interviews filmed in the 1960s for the landmark BBC series The Great War (1964). In these poignant B&W interviews, veterans and civilians, by then already into their late 60’s, share memories of what it was really like to experience at first hand the grim reality of this most brutal of conflicts. Interviewees recollect life in the trenches, the horrors of artillery bombardment and fleeting outbreaks of peace on the battlefield, aerial warfare, as well as life on the home front. There is a wealth of material available that helps shape students understanding of the First World War. In tandem with those resources these interviews will help make it accessible; none can convey its horror and tragedy like the men and women who suffered it at first hand on the battlefields and at home. PLEASE NOTE: As the interviews contain graphic recollections of killing and death, it is the responsibility of teachers to ensure they are appropriate for the age range of their students.
This new portal, which is linked to the Europeana 1914-1918 project below, offers a staggering wealth of digitised source materials, succinct articles by leading experts and researchers, and a large array of lesson plans and teaching resources for pupils aged 11 to 18 that cover a wide range of new and exciting topics, such as the colonial experience of war, recruitment and conscientious objection, tactile experiences of warfare, etc.
This is an on-going, crowd-sourced project. Seven roadshows in Germany in 2011 yielded an overwhelmingly successful 20,000 items and further expansion into Slovenia, Denmark, Ireland, Cyprus and Belgium together with an open invitation for anyone to submit via the website has released over 65,000 items for use in teaching, learning and research under a Creative Commons Licence. With Italy, Romania, France and others scheduled from 2013 onwards this online archive will become an important resource to bring together First World War European histories and experiences.
IWM (Imperial War Museums) is leading the First World War Centenary Partnership, a network of local, regional, national and international cultural and educational organisations. Together, they will present a vibrant global programme of cultural events and activities, and digital platforms which will enable millions of people across the world to discover more about life in the First World War. Visit the website for event listings and news of regional as well as national Centenary initiatives.
Oxford’s latest project includes a community blog, audio and video talks (with a collection of recently recorded academic podcasts already proving extremely popular), and a resource library of worldwide resources gathered through Europeana 1914–1918. Other related initiatives include a Twitter campaign in which the 95th anniversary of the Battle of Arras was re-enacted through live tweets.
The First World War Poetry Digital Archive is an online repository of over 7000 items of text, images, audio, and video for teaching, learning, and research. The heart of the archive consists of collections of highly valued primary material from major poets of the period, including Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Robert Graves, Vera Brittain, and Edward Thomas. This is supplemented by a comprehensive range of multimedia artefacts from the Imperial War Museum, a separate archive of over 6,500 items contributed by the general public, and a set of specially developed educational resources. These educational resources include an exciting new exhibition in the three-dimensional virtual world Second Life. Freely available to the public as well as the educational community, the First World War Poetry Digital Archive is a significant resource for studying the First World War and the literature it inspired.
To mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, GALE CENGAGE have hand-picked some articles and searches covering the First World War in detail from their otherwise subscription-only NewsVault database, and have made these available for free public use.
The Great War Archive contains over 6,500 items contributed by the general public between March and June 2008. Every item originates from, or relates to, someone’s experience of the First World War, either abroad or at home. Contributions were received via a special website and also through a series of open days at libraries and museums throughout the country. The model developed by the Great War Archive has since been used by other initiatives. We are currently working on the Europeana 1914-1918 project to gather further stories and memorabilia from the First World War. The original Great War Archive initiative accepted contributions until June 2008. After that, people have been invited to share images that they have by posting them to The Great War Archive Flickr Group.
Since 2008, pupils and teachers at The Hemel Hempstead School (in association with Goldsmiths, University of London) have been seeking to find the stories behind wartime headlines through interviews and researching materials. Although it is currently focusing on the Second World War, the project has also covered the First, and their project website offers a free guide to setting up similar projects for your own school.
IrelandWW1 is a web portal that aims to connect academics and community groups by collating information about whatever is happening in relation to the subject of Ireland in the era of the First World War: research projects, doctorates, post-docs, exhibitions, public talks, workshops, publications, guided tours, political debates/discussions, documentaries, art, theatre…the list is endless. As well as being an information hub, the website will act as a networking forum, allowing academics and representatives of non-university-led organizations and projects to introduce themselves to each other, and perhaps function as a springboard for conversation and collaboration.
UK RED is an open-access database housed at The Open University containing over 30,000 easily searchable records documenting the history of reading in Britain from 1450 to 1945. Evidence of reading presented in UK RED is drawn from published and unpublished sources as diverse as diaries, commonplace books, memoirs, sociological surveys, and criminal court and prison records. The database captures the reading tastes and habits of the famous and the ordinary, the young and the old, men and women. The texts range from books and newspapers to ephemera such as playbills and tickets, and from illuminated manuscripts, novels and poetry to tombstone inscriptions and graffiti. Entries in UK RED illustrate the diversity of reading experience and practice as well as patterns within particular periods and across time.
The key aim of this project is to try to use contemporary images of sites associated with the war as a way of helping people, and especially young people, to engage with this period, and to debate and discuss its historical importance, its legacy, and the role of remembrance. It will also, perhaps, serve to stimulate anyone with an interest in photography to consider creating their own images around the time of the centenary, and to share those with the project online.
WAR-Net was founded in 2010 by Kate McLoughlin (Birkbeck, University of London) and Gill Plain (University of St Andrews) as a virtual and actual forum for scholars based in northern England and Scotland working on war representation. It now welcomes members from all over the UK and the rest of the world. The mailing list, to which anyone can subscribe, will keep you abreast of events and publications in the field.
As the use of social media is such a large part of daily life today for both young and old, Greater London Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association (GL RFCA), David Noble Associates (DNA), a marketing and communications agency, and Wandsworth Council have taken the opportunity to work together to launch aninnovative, non-for-profit project. The project commemorates and brings to life the Great War by telling the story of Walter Carter, a Battersea soldier, throughout WW1, seen through his eyes and those of his family and friends via the use of Facebook, Twitter and a blog.
The Centre brings together a wide range of scholars who have an interest in the study of war and conflict in all of its guises. Warfare, by its very nature, is an all-embracing subject and the approach encouraged within the Centre is therefore truly interdisciplinary with members of staff from the School of History and Cultures working closely with their colleagues in other departments. The Centre is actively fostering research projects with other institutions across Europe and in the United States and Australia. As the Centre continues to expand, with the welcome addition of new colleagues, these links will grow. The Centre recognises the benefits of encouraging the widest possible engagement with society to adopt an informed attitude to the issues surrounding war and conflict and has a well established public education and knowledge transfer programme.
The Centre for War Studies was established in February 2008 to promote the study of the origins, nature and consequences of war in history and in the contemporary world. It draws on the existing interests of staff in the School of Histories and Humanities with convergence on three periods in particular: the Thirty Years war and the wars in Britain and Ireland in the 17th century; the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1792-1815; and the era of the two world wars, 1914-45, with special emphasis on the First World War. Their website offers information on conferences, research and publications, as well as podcasts and related links.
The Scottish Centre for War Studies was established in 1995 to promote research in, and understanding of, war in all its aspects. It is based in the University of Glasgow with links to other universities, institutions and individuals with related research interests, including the armed services. Its approach to the subject is both interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary. The research interests of the Centre stretch from medieval to modern times, covering military, political and cultural history. The Centre thus presents a unique opportunity to study war in all its aspects, from past to present, from causes to consequences. Visit their website for information about events, researchers and research projects.
An interdisciplinary research institution based at University College Dublin, the Centre for War Studies aims to develop new research projects in partnership with other research institutions in Europe and North America and to attract resources for these projects from external funding bodies. The centre builds upon the existing research interests of a substantial number of staff in the schools of History, Classics, Archaeology, and Politics and also serves as a forum for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows working on the history of war and interpersonal violence. The website provides information on events, research projects and publications amongst others.
National and International Museums and Archives
Located in Péronne, France, this project was envisioned in the context of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, which involved combatants from more than twenty nations of the world. The museum was inaugurated on 16 July 1992. The Historial is trilingual (English, French and German) and is neither a memorial nor a military museum but a cultural museum that seeks to show how the lives of combatants and civilians were drastically modified by the war. Located on the very site of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and the Battle of Picardy in 1918, the Historial of the Great War Museum attempts to provide keys for understanding these events in all their dimensions and in so doing, to encourage reflection on the consequences of these battles, and the material traces which survive today.
Imperial War Museums (IWM) is a family of five museums: IWM London; IWM North in Trafford, Greater Manchester; IWM Duxford near Cambridge; the Churchill War Rooms in Whitehall, London; and the historic ship HMS Belfast, moored in the Pool of London on the River Thames. Their website contains information about the permanent displays, the archives, special exhibitions, forthcoming events, education programmes, corporate hospitality and shopping facilities.
The Learning section in particular offers not only information on educational visits to one of the museums, but a range of free resources that are simple to download, and curriculum linked. These include teaching activities and source material from IWM Collections, which can be used on a visit to one of the IWM branches or in the classroom. These are available via the Their Past Your Future Website. In particular, take a look at IWMs new online learning resources for teachers, focussing on the First World War. These collect together highlights from across IWM’s collections and have been designed for use by schools in the UK and overseas. The resources include images, film and oral history interviews for teachers to use in the classroom.
The National Archives website offers search mechanisms to search for records held by The National Archives, records digitised on partners’ websites, and records held in other archives. Searching is free, but there may be a charge to download documents. The Online Records section of the website also allows access to some of the most popular items held in the Archives, including selected war diaries of units in the British Army in the First World War, service records for women who served in Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) and the Territorial Force Nursing Service during the First World War, reports on over 3,000 British and Commonwealth prisoners of war captured during the First World War, and service records of officers around 30,000 airwomen who served in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) during or after the war. You may also be interested in the free resources on the First World War period offered in the Education section.
The National Army Museum is concerned with the history of the British Army, with a mission to gather, maintain and make known the story of the British Army and its role and impact in world history. The museum aims to provide an experience that meets the widest range of public need and connects the British public with its Army. The permanent gallery “World Wars, 1905 – 1945” explores the role of the British Commonwealth’s civilian armies and their defence of democracy during the First and Second World Wars, the era of ‘Total War’, offering a view of the First World War in its wider context.
This major Dublin museum includes the ‘Soldiers and Chiefs’ exhibition covering Irish military history. The exhibition seeks to tell the story of the Irish solider from early domestic conflicts to modern times in the museum’s largest exhibition. As part of the exhibition, there is an entire gallery dedicated to the Great War covering all areas of the conflict, but in particular the roles of the 10th, 16th and 36th divisions.
One of the North of England’s finest military museums, the DLI tells the story of one of the most famous County Regiments in the British Army, focusing on ordinary people who lived extraordinary lives. With exhibits specifically on the regiment’s experience of the First World War, the DLI offers a great regional alternative to larger museums for teachers and schools located in the North East.
A list of museums dedicated to local Irish regiments, including the Royal Irish Fusiliers, the Royal Ulster Rifles and the South Irish Horse, has been collated by the IrelandWW1 web initiative. These museums offer excellent local points of contact and include exhibits on the involvement of these regiments in the First World War.
Learned Societies and First World War-related Organisations
The CWGC commemorate the 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars. Their cemeteries, burial plots and memorials are a lasting tribute to those who died in some 153 countries across the world. Register records details of Commonwealth war dead so that graves or names on memorials can be located. Besides allowing visitors to search for particular war dead, cemeteries and war graves, their website provides a range of resources and materials for visitors of all ages, from detailed histories of the two world wars, to personal stories, from classroom resources to websites of interest.
Please see Partners section.
Please see Partners section.
The Society brings together postgraduates and more established academics who study the First World War, with nearly 300 members in Europe, North America, Australasia and beyond. The Society was founded in 2001 following a conference held in Lyons, and recognises, in particular, the necessity for academic historians to engage with other historians of the war and with the wider audience interested in the subject. While committed to the preservation of its intellectual autonomy, the Society is therefore committed to enhancing the public understanding of the First World War. It publishes its own journal, First World War Studies, and holds regular international conferences. Their website also provides information and book reviews about current research and publications on the First World War, including a research blog that contains posts about society members’ latest cutting-edge research, and an extensive and continually updated collaborative bibliography that will help teachers and students find reading material on virtually any aspect of the war.
Founded in the aftermath of the First World War, the Royal British Legion is the UK’s largest Armed Forces charity. Besides lobbying for the interests of armed forces personnel and veterans and providing practical support, they also organise the annual Poppy Appeal and are recognised as the nation’s custodian of Remembrance.
The Trust’s learning website provides lesson plans, pupil activities and helpsheets for teachers in primary and secondary schools and project ideas and badge work support for youth groups such as Scouts and Guides.
The War Poets Association aims to promote interest in the work, life and historical context of poets whose subject is the experience of war. It is interested in war poets of all periods and nationalities, with the primary focus on conflicts since 1914 – mainly the First World War, The Spanish Civil War, the Second World War and Ireland. Their website aims to offer resources for research into and discussion of twentieth-century international war poetry, and to provide a selection of useful links.
The Western Front Association (WFA) was formed with the aim of furthering interest in The Great War of 1914-1918. We also aim to perpetuate the memory, courage and comradeship of all those on all sides who served their countries in France and Flanders and their own countries during The Great War. Established in 1980 by noted military historian John Giles, the WFA has grown over the years to some 6,000 members worldwide. Organised in local branches, the WFA organises events and supports a variety of local initiatives.
The Wilfred Owen Association was formed in 1989 to commemorate Wilfred Owen’s life and work. Their website offers critiques of Owen’s poems, biographical and related information, and the association’s journal publishes work about Wilfred Owen, or on themes relating to the history and literature of the Great War that are ‘in the spirit’ of Wilfred Owen.
A fascinating blog by Dr George Simmers, retired English teacher and expert on soldier fictions, that scrutinises old and new writing, film and television productions on the subject of the First World War, as well as other broadly related issues.
The First World War Blog from Mary Evans Picture Library offers features on fascinating images from magazines and other popular sources, all drawn from the library’s collections. The Mary Evans Picture Library licenses images for commercial use in books, newspapers, magazines, adverts, web sites and all manner of other media.
This is a twice-monthly blog on literary, educational, architectural and stained glass topics, with a recurring interest in the Great War and cultural memory. Besides acting as Chairman of the English Association, as an education consultant with a particular interest in curriculum development and assessment review, and as series editor of Cambridge Contexts in Literature, Adrian writes and lectures on war memorials and their significance.