Trauma and the First World War team present project to IWM War and Conflict Specialist Subject Network

On 13 February 2020, Dr Larissa Allwork (The University of Derby) presented the Trauma and the First World War workshop as part of a ‘Representing Traumatic Histories’ study visit organised by the IWM War and Conflict Specialist Subject Network at the Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre, Huddersfield (12 – 13th February 2020).

Delegate discussions.

The two day study visit featured presentations from IWM, the Forces in Mind Trust, Historic England and Age Exchange, among others. These presentations reflected on the challenges of representing traumatic histories in public education, exhibition, policy, health and artistic contexts. A particular focus for discussion was the Holocaust and the Nazi past, with Emma King (Director of the Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre) introducing the Huddersfield exhibition and Iby Knill, a survivor of the Nazi camps giving an account of her experiences. Delegates also got to hear about the curatorial strategies behind the new IWM Second World War and Holocaust galleries to be opened in 2021; as well as plans for the new IWM Second World War and Holocaust Partnership programme. 

Throughout the two day event delegates discussed best practice in relation to representing traumatic histories. These discussions will inform, ‘Ideas for Approaching Traumatic Histories’, an open access guide that will be published on the website for the IWM War and Conflict Specialist Subject Network. The event was a really excellent exchange of ideas, and particularly interesting for Larissa as it brought together her research interests in the First World War, the Second World War and the Holocaust.

Huddersfield’s ‘Through our Eyes’ exhibition tells the story of 16 children and young people from Europe who survived the Nazi regime and settled in the north of England.

Does your community group want to participate in a Trauma and the First World War workshop?

As part of the closing events of the First World War centenary, Hidden Histories have been running a series of trauma and the First World War workshops for community researchers. The idea has been to encourage NHLF First World War Then and Now community researchers to integrate issues in relation to the long-term effects of trauma into their World War One community history projects.

Our project has been awarded a little bit of extra funding from the University of Nottingham School of Medicine to offer a couple more trauma and the First World War workshops, ideally to audiences or in locations that the team have yet to visit. These are likely to be locations such as the South coast and/or the North of England. We are looking for community venues and groups who might like to participate. In terms of the session itself, we would need:

  • A room with PowerPoint facilities for two hours
  • A group of participants
  • The session to run before the end of 2019.

However, apart from that the session would be free of charge, and the group would have the choice of either the a) trauma and the First World War workshop, or b) the trauma, women and the First World War workshop (where the focus is more on gender history). Every participant gets a free copy of the ‘Shell Shock Stories and Beyond: Research Guide and Bibliography’ as part of attending the session.  If you are interested in a workshop, please contact: and

Women and Trauma Workshop at Glasgow Women’s Library

Dr Larissa Allwork and Andrea Kocurkova gave a workshop on women and First World War trauma as part of the AHRC First World War Engagement Centre Festival on Women and War held at Glasgow Women’s Library between 30th and 31st August 2019.

Larissa and Andrea. Photographer unknown.

Larissa and Andrea worked with a group of ten engaged, knowledgeable and enthusiastic participants to explore female experiences of trauma during World War I. The concept of shell shock is problematic in gender terms, both because it continues to be primarily associated with male experiences of trench warfare, and because during the war male shell shock sufferers were often stigmatised as being ‘un-manly’. Drawing on the work of researchers like Tracey Loughran, Christine Hallett and Santanu Das, Larissa and Andrea introduced the group to a range of primary sources and sought to explore the various ways through which specific female war-time experiences of trauma were felt, and left their trace in primary sources such as memoirs, pension records and oral histories.

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