After a highly competitive process, the Institute is delighted to have appointed eighteen Junior Research Fellows for the 2015-16 year. We received a record number of applications for Junior Fellowships this year, and panels found it challenging to select the successful candidates from a range of excellent submissions. Thank you to everyone who took the time to apply.
We greatly look forward to welcoming the new cohort in October, and will be sharing more details and news of them in the coming months. In the meantime, you can get a sense of their areas of interest from the list below.
Do remember to check back for the programme of Director’s Seminars. At these seminars the Junior Fellows will present their research. These will be held on Wednesday afternoons, 2-4pm, from 7 October – 2 December (except one on the Thursday, 26 November), in Wolfson II at the IHR.
Economic History Society Fellows
Alice Dolan (UCL) 1 year
Re-Fashioning the Working Class: Mechanisation and Materiality in England 1800-1856
Paul Kreitman (SOAS) 1 year
Economic and Social Dimensions of Sovereignty in the North Pacific, 1861-1965
John Morgan (Exeter) 1 year
Financing flood security in eastern England, 1567-1826 Warwick
Judy Stephenson (Cambridge) 1 year
Occupation and Labour market institutions in London 1600 – 1800 LSE
Jacobite Studies Trust Fellow
Mindaugas Sapoka (Aberdeen) 1 year
Poland-Lithuania and Jacobitism c. 1714 – c. 1750
Past & Present Fellows
Jennifer Keating (UCL) 1 year
Images in crisis: Landscapes of disorder in Russian Central Asia, 1915-1924
Roel Konijnendijk (UCL) 1 year
Courage and Skill: A Hierarchy of Virtue in Greek Thought
Tehila Sasson (UC Berkeley) 1 year
In the Name of Humanity: Britain and the Rise of Global Humanitarianism
Junqing Wu (Exeter) 1 year
Anticlerical erotica in China and France: a cross-cultural analysis Nottingham
Ben Thomas (Aberdeen) 1 year
The Royal Naval Reserve in rural Scotland and Wales, c. 1900-1939
IHR Doctoral Fellows – Royal Historical Society
Lucy Hennings (Oxford) 1 year P.J. Marshall Fellow
England in Europe during the Reign of Henry III, 1216-1272
Sarah Ward (Oxford) 1 year Centenary Fellow
Royalism, Religion, and Revolution: The Gentry of North-East Wales, 1640-88
IHR Doctoral Fellows – Scouloudi Fellows
Will Eves (St Andrews) 6 months
The Assize of Mort d’Ancestor: From 1176 to 1230
Felicity Hill (UEA) 1 year
Excommunication and Politics in thirteenth-century England
Julia Leikin (UCL) 1 year
Prize law, maritime neutrality, and the law of nations in Imperial Russia, 1768-1856
James Norrie (Oxford) 6 months
Property and Religious Change in the Diocese of Milan, c.990-1140
Joan Redmond (Cambridge) 6 months
Popular religious violence in Ireland, 1641-1660
IHR Doctoral Fellows – Thornley Fellow
Cécile Bushidi (SOAS) 1 year
Dance, socio-cultural change, and politics among the Gĩkũyũ people of Kenya, 1880s-1963
We would also like to announce that Jacob Currie (Cambridge) was awarded a six-month Scouloudi Fellowship, which has been deferred to 2016-17.
During the long, warm days of July, our thoughts at the IHR turn to the annual Friends’ outing. In years past, the Friends of the Institute have ventured to William Morris’s house in Walthamstow and Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath. This year, on Monday, 6 July, we travelled to Hackney to explore Sutton House and St Augustine’s Tower.
Sir Ralph Sadleir, a courtier to Henry VIII and man whom our guide described as “the servant of the servant of the King,” built the house in 1535, and it stands as a visible reminder of Tudor architecture, albeit with some modifications and additions from later owners. Occupants of the house have ranged from merchants to, in the 1980s, squatters, all of whom have left an indelible mark on the house, inside and out.
Outing participants were treated to a tour of the house by medieval historian and archaeologist Dr Nick Holder, of Regent’s University of London. Nick began the tour outside the house to give everyone an overview of the history and architecture of the building. He then led us through the four floors, including the basement. The house boasts an impressive array of rooms, including the oak-panelled parlour and great hall. Throughout the tour of the house, Nick provided Friends with in-depth information about each room’s original use and its architectural attributes. He even pulled up floorboards and allowed us to peak behind panels to see sixteenth century building materials and design.
After viewing the house, Friends were invited to take lunch at Sutton House’s garden café, where we ate some excellent homemade soup followed by tea and Victoria sponge. While the first tour group had their meal, Nick took a second group of Friends around the house, and repeated his extensive tour of the premises. Following a quick cup of tea and slice of cake, Nick took the groups for an inside view of St Augustine’s Tower in the St John’s Church Gardens, just a short stroll from Sutton House.
St Augustine’s Tower
St Augustine’s Tower was erected in the early sixteenth century as part of the building of the Hackney parish church, St Augustine’s, which replaced an earlier thirteenth century church on the same spot. Today, the tower is all that remains of the church. Boasting a Grade I listing, it is the oldest building in Hackney. The clock in the tower was installed around the early 1600s and remains in working order to this day. Normally closed, except on the last Sunday of each month, Friends were treated to a private tour of the tower’s floors, allowing visitors to view the clock works, ring the bell, and get a bird’s-eye view of London from atop the building.
While many returned home after the tour of the tower, others continued socialising over coffee and pastries at the Turkish café in the gardens adjacent to the tower. Everyone agreed that it was a fantastic day out.
Other excellent Friend’s events are planned for this autumn, including the Annual General Meeting which will be held on Monday, 19 October. This year, we are fortunate to have Professor Nigel Saul of Royal Holloway University of London, who will deliver the Annual Friends’ Lecture following the AGM. He will be speaking on Magna Carta. For further details about upcoming Friends’ events, or on how to become a Friend of the IHR, please visit the Institute’s website (http://www.history.ac.uk/support-us/friends) or speak to Mark Lawmon in the Development Office by phone (020 7862 8791) or by email (email@example.com).
The Dr Seng Tee Lee Centre, Senate House Library
October 27th 2015
The University of London’s Senate House Library will be hosting a symposium in connection with a new project to begin later this year being jointly run by the Centre for Metropolitan History at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House Library and the School of Advanced Study. The Passage project hopes to address a number of research questions arising from historical texts that describe or are structured around walking around London. It’s intended to be very broad in its disciplinary approaches, as well as its period of coverage (from Stow to the early 20th century), and its research themes will be wide ranging, including:
The topographical development of London at various periods
The associations of place with specific types of activity
The associations of place with types of morality
The development of consumer services
Reasons for and different types of walking around London (‘strolling, striding, marching’)
Changes in the literary genre of ‘travel writing’, broadly defined
The body of texts to be examined by the project include tour guides, travel journals of visitors, literary/polemical discourses ‘attached’ to walks, topographical surveys, administrative records (e.g. perambulation accounts), criminal records (e.g. trespass depositions) and governmental (control of walking routes/rights of way, enclosure, management of protest etc.).
The project is still very much in its infancy at the moment – even the project website is yet to be launched! – but the symposium will provide an excellent opportunity for scholars and students from various backgrounds and disciplines to define the landscape. The symposium will fall into two halves: the first half of the day will focus on papers from invited speaks who will be discussing very different approaches to historical writing about walking in London. Speakers include Nick Barratt (SHL) will be talking about walking as recorded in official records, focusing on Medieval London; Sarah Dustagheer (Kent) will be talking about Shakespeare, walking and London; Richard Dennis (UCL) who will be talking about George Gissing, Charles Booth and 19th century walking in London; and Matthew Beaumont (UCL) who will be discussing nightwalking in London.
The second half of the day will include a round-table discussion of the themes that arise from the papers, and will also provide an opportunity to view interesting and rare examples of London walking literature. In the afternoon, Senate House Library’s Rare Books Library, Dr Karen Attar, will be displaying and talking about the Bromhead Library (http://senatehouselibrary.ac.uk/our-collections/special-collections/printed-special-collections/bromhead-library/), a collection from which many of works on walking come, as well as items from other collections that will be providing evidence throughout the Passage project.
Today is the first day of Fashion, the 84th Anglo-American Conference of Historians, and as usual, this means we’ll be publishing a series of fashion-related reviews over the next few weeks. We start this week with a book by one of the session chairs from the conference, Vivienne Richmond, Clothing the Poor in Nineteenth-Century England. Sally Tuckett recommends a volume which ensures that the dress of the historical majority is seen as being just as worthy of attention and analysis as that of the fashionable elite (no. 1790).
Next up is From Main Street to Mall: The Rise and Fall of the American Department Store by Vicki Howard, as Jan Whitaker looks at a new history of an American retail institution (no. 1789).
Then we turn to Tansy Hoskins’ Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion. Esther Leslie reviews a book which suggests that the fashion industry is deadly, and that its seductions are lethal (no. 1788).
Finally we have Kimono: A Modern History by Terry Satsuki Milhaupt. Elizabeth Kramer believes this book persuasively challenges the myth of the kimono as a traditional, static garment (no. 1787).
This post has kindly been written for us by Professor Richard Hoyle, Director and General Editor of the Victoria County History.
One thing which is pretty certain is that everyone who attends this year’s local history conference sponsored by the IHR and VCH lived through a part of the twentieth century – quite probably a fair chunk of it. And yet this conference starts with the premise that the twentieth century is often the hardest and most elusive period for local historians to deal with, being of our own times, familiar, yet strangely out of reach. It saw enormous upheavals in institutions, ownership and landscape, and in individual experience. Many of the familiar sources to address these sources disappear – so estate records – whilst others loose much of their evidential value (newspapers). Many modern records are closed to users: others may not even exist, having been swept away by records management. Yet other possibilities emerge, notably oral history, and for no other period do we have such abundance of maps and, of course, photographs (including those taken from the air).
This is a conference is for everyone who wants to contribute to an emerging agenda of looking at the relatively recent past. It offers guidance on some of the sources whilst describing, through worked examples, how the researcher can make their own contribution to deepening knowledge and understanding of the twentieth century. It explores what is before us, and is sometimes too obvious to see.
2015 seems to be a year marking many notable anniversaries: 800 years since Magna Carta; 750 years since the first elected Parliament representing all of England; 200 years since the Battle of Waterloo; 50 years since the death of Sir Winston Churchill; and the First World War centenary remembrances continue. This year also represents another momentous anniversary—600 years since the Battle of Agincourt. To commemorate this milestone of the Hundred Years’ War, the Friends of the IHR are hosting a film evening on 16 March, showing Laurence Olivier’s acclaimed film, Henry V. The evening will feature a guest lecture from Professor Anne Curry, an expert on medieval history and a prolific author on the Hundred Years’ War.
Henry V Film Poster (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Henry_V_%E2%80% 93_1944_UK_film_poster.jpg)
Crafted in 1944, The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France, directed by and starring Olivier, is widely regarded as the first motion picture to successfully adapt Shakespeare from the stage to the screen. In homage to the Bard, the movie opens with a production of Henry V at the Globe Theatre, and slowly transforms into a cinematic spectacle. The viewer is then treated to a masterful mix of action—following the King’s campaign to Agincourt—and romance—as Henry attempts to court the French princess. The action returns to the Globe as this Academy Award-winning film draws to a close.
The Friends of the IHR have been very loyal supporters of the Institute. The funding they provide is integral to increasing the capacity of the IHR to promote and enhance the study of history in Britain. As part of the mission to extend the reach of the IHR’s resources, charitable donations from the Friends have funded bursaries for many PhD students who are based outside London to access the Institute and undertake excellent research. In addition, the Friends have subsidised numerous outstanding speakers to present insightful seminars, provided vital capital for the recently completed redevelopment, and delivered cornerstone funding for the IHR Library’s new Conservation Fund. All of these help ensure that the IHR is able to offer the highest quality scholarship and resources.
Battle of Agincourt (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schlacht_von _Azincourt.jpg)
Much more than just financial supporters, however, the Friends form a social community of academics and all with a shared interest in history. As such, the film evenings are a highlight of the Friends’ calendar. These events offer a chance to engage with history through a medium other than books, to hear from experts in the field, and to partake in a critical discussion of the subject and an exchange of ideas. Perhaps just as importantly, these events provide an opportunity to have a good time with like-minded people, enjoy some food and drink, and perhaps make some friends among the Friends. For information on how to join the Friends, please follow this link.
The event is open to all, but you are encouraged to book soon, as spaces are limited and going fast. In addition to the film and lecture, there will be wine throughout and light supper to follow.
Registration is now open for this major conference which will explore the ways in which London and its inhabitants were affected by, and involved in, the 1914-18 conflict. Organised by IWM (Imperial War Museums) in partnership with the Centre for Metropolitan History (IHR) as part of events to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, it will be held in the IHR new conference suite (20 March) and at IWM London on 21 March.
With a packed programme of wide-ranging papers, it is hoped that the conference will appeal to both academics and members of the public. Bookended by plenary lectures by Dr Adrian Gregory (Pembroke College, Oxford) on ‘London: a wartime metropolis in comparative perspective’ and Professor Jerry White (Birkbeck, University of London) on ‘London in the First World War: questions of legacy’, there will also be seven panel sessions over the two days, a conference reception on Friday evening, as well as the opportunity to view IWM London’s new First World War gallery before the Museum opens to the general public on Saturday.
On 20 March, the panel sessions will explore: ‘daily life and institutions’, with papers on local government and waste, policing and Kew Gardens; ‘enemy aliens’, focusing on riots, internment, deportations and the rise and fall of Sir Edgar Speyer; ‘transport’ – public transport, the Metropolitan Railway, and women war workers in the streets and railway stations; the ‘Empire view’, from the standpoint of Australian visitors, New Zealanders in London and African and Caribbean colonial troops. On 21 March, the session on ‘dissent’, will include papers on the peace campaigner, Caroline Playne, The Herald newspaper and anti-war trade unionists, the impact on the Anglican Church, and the East London Federation of Suffragettes; ‘air war’ will look at the interrogation of captured Zeppelin air crew, aircraft manufacturing and curating ‘The First World War in the Air’ at the RAF Museum; the final session will focus on ‘leisure’ – memory, work and leisure, Chelsea FC, and importing London to the Front.
In a major collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum, the IHR is taking Fashion as the theme for its annual conference in summer 2015. Fashion in history is a topic which has come of age in recent years, as scholars have turned to addressing what is chic and what is style over the ages and across different cultures. The history of fashion, and the role of fashion in history, is not just confined to the study of dress and costume, but encompasses design and innovation, taste and zeitgeist, treats as its subjects both people and objects, and crosses over into related disciplines such as the history of art and architecture, consumption, retailing and technology. And across the world, fashion brings together museums, graduate teaching programmes, learned societies and the fashion profession around a common set of interests and concerns. The IHR conference next year we hope will be a perfect showcase and a meeting-point for the wide spectrum of specialists in this exciting field.
Our plenary speakers include Christopher Breward (Edinburgh), Beverly Lemire (Alberta), Ulinka Rublack (Cambridge) and Valerie Steele (Fashion Institute of Technology, New York). Proposals for panels on the themes of dress, imitation and emulation, taste and style, body-art, the fashion-industry and its media, fashionability and trend-setting, catwalks, fairs and exhibitions, innovation in interior design, architecture and public space, fashion education and technology will be accepted down to the middle of December. Individual paper proposals will also be accepted. Panels should comprise three papers and a chair, and proposals must include the name and affiliation of the speakers, the title of the panel and the titles of the individual papers. Please send proposals by 15th December to IHR.Events@sas.ac.uk Decisions will be made known once the Programme Committee has met in early January 2015.
Illustration: F.S. Brereton, With our Russian Allies (1916)
This post was written for us by Karen Attar from Senate House Library Special Collections.
The conference “The Great War at Home” supplied an excellent opportunity for Senate House Library to provide a small complementary display. The only problem was how best to use a limited space. To the extent that we had a focus, that focus was publishing, and within the theme of publishing, Oxford University Press – especially timely in so far as a new History of Oxford University Press was published last year. In August 1914 seven members of the Modern History Faculty of the University of Oxford promptly set to and wrote Why We Are At War: Great Britain’s Case, in order to set forth the causes of war and the principles they believed to be at stake. This was the first of 87 OUP “pamphlets” about the War, although with 206 pages there was little of the pamphlet about it.
The Delegates of Oxford University Press approved the book’s publication on 16 October 1914, at their first meeting of the new academic year – by which time it was already in its third edition, the one displayed. The copy shown is from a collection of about 530 books and pamphlets pertaining to the War brought together by the pacifist historian Caroline Elizabeth Playne (1857-1948) in connection with the books she wrote about the conflict. The other OUP book shown is homage to Shakespeare for the tercentenary celebration of his birth: evidence of the continuation, albeit in severely limited form, of academic publishing during the war.
Children’s adventure stories set against the backdrop of the Great War and stereotypically full of valiant English youths and cowardly, underhand Germans, some of them spies, give insight into how in an unrealistic form the war pervaded children’s consciousness. An example of such literature was also displayed, With our Russian Allies by the extremely popular Frederick Sadleir Brereton.
All of these are examples of “The Great War in England”. We interpreted “home” more narrowly with Roll of War Service, 1914-1919, commemorating the losses in war of members of the University of London Officers Training Corps: seven officers and some 670 cadets.
In previous years Senate House Library’s contribution to the Anglo-American Conference of Historians has been purely to curate a display. This year the topic enabled the Library to give a conference paper, again seeing “home” as the host institution of the conference. Karen Attar, who had previously delved into the history of the Library during the Second World War, extended her researches backwards to the period 1914-1918 to talk about the University of London Library then. Documentary evidence is sparse compared with that for the Second World War, so that an initial fear was of not finding enough to say. There was no need to worry, and a twenty-minute talk expanded to fit forty minutes. Several interesting points emerged in the course of preliminary reading, such as better air raid precautions for the First World War than for the Second, and a suggestion that books would be safer on the central University’s premises in London than in Cambridge.
Kate Tiller, founding fellow of Kellogg College, University of Oxford and chair of the British Association for Local History
As the centenaries of 1914–18 finally come upon us, the challenges facing historians to research and interpret the impact of the First World War multiply. One is the need to investigate and understand the War more widely, recognising the importance of perspectives not previously considered significant, and turning attention to the Home Front; the wartime experiences of women and children; the economic, social, cultural and political consequences of the War; the Empire and dominion experience; and to military events beyond the Western Front.
Another challenge is to revisit and scrutinise deep-rooted, existing assumptions about the War. David Reynolds, in a recent, cogent dissection (The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century, 2013), characterises the British view of the First World War as particular. Centred on the trenches, on military events and heavily influenced by literature and poetry, it perpetuates a verdict that was influential at the time of the 50th anniversary. This sees the War in hindsight as a futile sacrifice, a bitter and costly conflict, which failed to end all wars and led to another, more clearly justifiable, World War only 21 years later.
A third challenge is that posed by the growing demand for a popular and public history of 1914–18, a history to be shared between generations and places, disseminated by broadcasters, heritage professionals and teachers, in classrooms and on field trips. Amidst the growing hype, threatening at times to tip into unreflective cliché or even centenary ‘celebration’, local history has a special and important part to play. As the challenges point First World War studies away from single-perspective, one-narrative accounts, local history offers a way to respond. Returning to the local experience and using and integrating the rich, direct contemporary evidence enables realities of wartime throughout British society to be rediscovered. We may unearth, preserve and record new evidence; generate fresh findings; pursue shared questions; encourage comparative thinking; and join up accounts of separate aspects of wartime and post-war experience within and between communities to move us on, as David Reynolds urges, to combine remembrance with greater historical understanding.
This is an ambitious agenda. Projects and publications are beginning to show how it can be fulfilled, and examples are reported here. More are promised, including events at Senate House and initiatives by the British Association for Local History (BALH), which aims to encourage and support the study of local history as an academic discipline and as a rewarding pursuit for grass roots historians, individuals and groups. The two organisations combined on 28 February for a joint Institute of Commonwealth Studies/BALH day on ‘Experiences of World War One: strangers, differences and locality’. Keynote speaker, Dr Catriona Pennell, emphasised that, although a national narrative of the War’s history had dominated earlier study, fuller understanding depends on adding local and international perspectives and being aware of the constant interconnectedness of all three elements – local, national and international.
This theme was played out during discussion of the interaction of local people in Britain with black and Indian troops from the Empire and Dominions. A mixture of newspapers, diaries, letters, recollections, photos and official records provided the evidence. Wartime connections came through local camps and hospitals. Racial stereotyping, mixed marriages and outbreaks of violence all figured, but meetings of cultures were not just made by war, with some networks of family links operating before 1914 and after 1918. Nor were all ex-servicemen white, UK residents, as demonstrated by several case studies of West Indian veterans returning to their homes in the Caribbean. There, November rituals of remembrance were kept at local war memorials, while island economies struggled, not least because of continuing debt burdens linked to their support for the mother country’s war effort. The local, national and international did indeed interact to form these experiences of the War.
Elsewhere, increasing publication of Home Front studies is bringing the non-military experience in the UK to the fore. From 1914, every kind of neighbourhood, village, town and region was touched, not only by the deaths and injuries of those going away to fight but also by the immediate demands and lasting changes felt by those who were ‘left behind’, and were willingly or unwillingly directly affected by war. The whole economy was mobilised, while massive volunteer effort was forthcoming. Local histories of this experience are showing the illuminating balance to be struck between detail and generalisation, and the potential for both comparison and understanding the particular. The latest Victoria County History Essex volume (XI, on Clacton, Walton and Frinton: North-East Essex Seaside Resorts, 2012) brings home, in its chapter on the War, the threat of invasion, air raids and the black-out, and the loss of holiday business that made for a very specific East Coast, seaside experience of 1914–18.
Another recent publication (Local Aspects of the Great War: Coventry and Warwickshire 1914–1919,2012) reflects a more general range of Home Front research topics in ten related studies. The canvas chosen is one county (for these purposes Coventry and Warwickshire, but not Birmingham). As the editor, local historian Chris Holland, argues this scale of study allows a balance between detail and generalisation and the possibility of challenging commonly held views. It is an aim impressively achieved through examinations of an area including large and small towns, major industries, artisan and labouring families and rural, agricultural communities. The topics covered represent an agenda that will be useful to others looking to undertake local studies spanning the war years. The themes are the outbreak of war, Belgian refugees, recruitment, billeting, caring for the wounded, wartime industrial production, food, local tribunals for exemptions from military service, the ‘Spanish’ flu epidemic of 1918–19 and responses to the Armistice.
These are discussed with a telling and humane attention to the stories of individuals and families, while reminding the reader of how these experiences were a direct part of wider determinants and trends, from DORA (the Defence of the Realm Acts), to the formation of the Women’s Land Army, to the rise in the cost of living by nearly 50 per cent between 1914–16, to the addition of 3 million acres of land under cultivation. Alongside this are some equally striking local facts and figures. Kenilworth found land for, and established, 104 new allotments in one month. In Coventry, White and Poppe, a light engineering company employing 350 people in 1914, rapidly became one of the largest munitions factories in the country, having employed 30,000 by the end of the conflict. Its workers, including many women, filled 30 million fuses and 31 million detonators, while the firm also produced War Office vehicle engines. The whole operation included housing and hostels, canteens, allotments, a swimming pool, library and cinema. By 1917, VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachment) were running 17 hospitals in Warwickshire, that in rural Kineton growing to provide 82 beds.
The work of the eight contributors highlights many realities, including the degree of pre-war preparation carried out by military and civil organisations, and the enormous practical complexity of coping with war conditions, from transport, to telegrams and post, to civilian medical services with large numbers of doctors and nurses on war service, to labour in shops, factories and fields. The role of women, revealing some resistance to their growing employment, is observed along with the degree of class tensions, from a strike at White and Poppe to apparently seamless assumptions of local leadership by traditional elites. A legion of committees and activities was organised, with an outpouring of voluntary effort aimed at ‘doing our bit’. How this was turned to effective action, and how far controlled locally or subsumed in centrally directed government initiatives is another recurrent theme.
Local studies also allow us to look afresh at the familiar. The main war memorial at Colchester, unveiled in 1923, is one of tens of thousands of local memorials in the British Isles. They are telling subjects for local research into the relationship between remembrance and community, as each place made its own decisions on how to commemorate their dead. Most war memorials took the form of permanent monuments, sometimes collective, sometimes to groups or individuals. Some favoured practical projects and buildings looking to the better future secured by the sacrifice of the dead. Although the creation of fitting tributes was a near universal response, the memorials themselves are far from uniform. Many record the names of individual combatants (presented in a significant variety of ways), but they also reflect the circumstances, attitudes, funds, tastes and sometimes disagreements of families and comrades, of influential local individuals and institutions, and of others in the wider circles of connection and remembrance which influenced the making of each structure.
The main First World War memorial in Colchester is just one of some forty in the town, a vivid reflection of the many community activities – school, work, church, sport, voluntary organisation – the dead of 1914–18 might have been part of. The collective and apparently democratic nature of the process of making Colchester’s main memorial is reflected in the 40 different groups, from the Scouts, to ‘Married Women’, to religious denominations, political parties, Freemasons, friendly societies, secondary schools, local employers and utility companies represented on the War Memorial Selection Committee. Formed as early as January 1919, it energetically debated six alternative forms of commemoration – public baths, school of art, purchasing Colchester castle, a memorial hall, a hospital wing and a monument. It was the last which won out, and the committee minutes detail the deliberations, fundraising, the purchase and gift of the site, choice and commissioning of the memorial with its statues of Victory, Peace and St George, the composition of the wording (referring to both the military dead and the other men and women ‘who stood for King and country & bearing arms or by their work helped to win the war’), and finally the elaborate unveiling ceremony.
The memorial became the focus of regular remembrance, those public rituals intended to ensure that the dead and what they died for remain in local consciousness. This too is rich ground for research. In November 1938 the mayor of Colchester, speaking at the war memorial, ‘invited his listeners to ask themselves whether or not the concept of remembrance had become meaningless and sentimental, and whether the sacrifices of the Fallen had been in vain’. Plaques have now been added to the monument to commemorate the dead of the (in a curiously understated phrase) ‘further war’ of 1939–45, and – in this army town – to soldiers killed since 1945 while on service or through terrorist acts.
Through its publications, BALH hopes to develop ideas and methods for local studies of wartime experience. These include a guide to researching local memorials and their significance (Remembrance andCommunity: War Memorials and Local History by Kate Tiller, 2013). Its quarterly newsletter Local History News is carrying a series of short articles on different themes, which can be read on www.balh.co.uk. Other publications are:
Memorials of war (Gill Draper) LHN103, spring 2012
Community responses to the outbreak of war, August 1914 (Catriona Pennell), LHN 104, summer 2012
The agricultural community at war, 1914–1918 (Bonnie White), LHN 105, autumn 2012
Soldiers’ letters and the First World War (Rachel Duffett), LHN 106, winter 2013
Women and work in the First World War (Deborah Thom), LHN 107, Spring 2013
Schools in the First World War (Tim Lomas), LHN 108, Summer 2013
The railwaymen who went to war: stories held at the National Railway Museum(Alison Kay), LHN 109, Autumn 2013
Service and sources: compiling local narratives of WW1 military history (Richard S. Grayson), LHN 110, Winter 2014
War resisters in Britain during the First World War: an opportunity for new research(Cyril Pearce), LHN 111, Spring 2014 (forthcoming)
Impact of the War on country estates (Allen Warren), LHN 112, Summer 2014 (forthcoming)
Impact of the War on London’s minorities (Jerry White), Autumn 2014 (forthcoming)
Local responses to food shortages (Karen Hunt), Winter 2015 (forthcoming)
Children’s experience of the FWW (Rosie Kennedy), Spring 2015 (forthcoming)
A flagship event will be this year’s Anglo-American Conference for Historians, ‘The Great War at home’, to be held at the IHR on 3–4 July. It will be jointly presented by IHR, BALH, the American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) and the VCH (see anglo-american.history.ac.uk/). The theme is the impact of the War on the locality and local institutions, the family and social life, and the memorialisation of war in the built environment and in private life. It aims to gather together local and community historians, academics and graduate students to present and exchange their findings and ideas on all aspects of the impact of the War, in the UK and worldwide.
The conference will reflect the momentum and direction of work already underway. It will also point ahead, as a joint session, bringing together local historians from BALH, the Family and Community Historical Research Society and the AASLH, will explore shared interests and possibilities for an online network of local groups to research themes in Home Front studies. This will be another step towards realising the potential of local studies to respond to the challenges faced by historians of the First World War and its impact.