Call for Papers: Beyond the Western Front -The Global First World War

Call for Papers: Beyond the Western Front -The Global First World War

The Centre for Hidden Histories is proud to announce a two day Conference and Community Showcase, entitled Beyond the Western Front: The Global First World War to take place at the Albert Hall Conference Centre, Nottingham, 1st and 2nd July 2016

Two young Belgian girls greet their father outside their home on his return from work, as their mother looks on from the doorway. Birtley-Elisabethville, Co. Durham, 1918. IWM Q 27746
Two young Belgian girls greet their father outside their home on his return from work, as their mother looks on from the doorway. Birtley-Elisabethville, Co. Durham, 1918. IWM Q 27746

Through a combination of academic papers, workshops and creative performances, this free conference will examine different understandings of the war and seek to provide a broader cosmopolitan context in which to place the British First World War orthodoxy. We seek representation from a variety of national, faith and other emerging communities whose histories are rarely considered, and for whom the traditional Armistice Day celebrations may have strikingly different meanings.

The existence of a First World War beyond the Western Front is a critical element of the Centre’s thematic interest and the conference would be intended to examine this in an open and discursive manner. We are actively seeking contributions from community groups and academic researchers.

It is hoped that the debates at the event will prompt further research and collaboration between academics and communities. Where possible, prompts to the AHRC Connected Communities, Care for the Future and Global Uncertainties themes will be made.

The conference will explore four major themes:

  1. The Lives of ‘Others’
    We are looking for contributions that examine the experiences of those whose war was fought outside the western trenches; at home and around the world. This embraces not only the combatant roles of Asian and African troops in European and non-European theatres but also the important contribution of labour. All the combatants enlisted labour for the myriad heavy duties to supply and maintain front lines. There are few monuments to labourers. The Great War was also a global war at sea, and a large number of merchant seamen were non-Europeans.
  1. The War as Global Revolution
    The war was one of the most significant moments of change in recent history. We want to examine the global impact of these changes, in the destruction of old orders, the raising of new ones and in the development of new ways of living. This raises the question of periodisation e.g. the ‘1914-18 war’ so often projected; or, in the language of the UK Allied Victory medal ‘The Great War for Civilisation 1914-1919’; but what of the perspective from other parts of the world, eg. Turkey – should it be 1911 to the Treaty of Lausanne 1923? What is rather obvious is that the Great War did not end with the ‘Armistice’ or with the Paris treaties, but turned to revolution with sustained violence and destruction on a large scale across a large part of the world.
  1. We Are Making a New World: The lives of those who survived
    In remembering the fallen, did we forget the even greater numbers who came home? We are interested in proposals that will examine the challenges faced by the men, women and children who lived into the peace. There were not many ‘memorials’ for those who survived the war, but there were memories and psychological damage on a large scale.
  1. Different Memorial Cultures
    With the war now lost to living memory, cultures of remembrance are the primary methods by which people engage with it. We are looking for contributions that illuminate and explore the very different cultures of remembrance across national, ethnic and social groups.


Potential topics include, but are not limited to:


  • The impact of defeat
  • The impact of victory
  • The questioning of religious belief as a result of war
  • From 1914 to When? The question of periodisation
  • ‘Enemy aliens’ and the impact of war on minority communities
  • The concept of the refugee from 1914 to the present day
  • Migration and resettlement
  • The First World War and the founding of nation states
  • War and the growth of the power of the State
  • Total war and attempts to retreat from this in the early 1920s.
  • Postwar independence movements
  • The First World War and the creation of the modern Middle East
  • The impact of continuity on British national attitudes
  • The First World War in the twenty first century
  • Unknown Warriors: the creation of mass memorials
  • Memorial traditions in different cultures and territories
  • The changing heroic ideal
  • War and the changed roles and positions of women, and not just in the industrial states.
  • Influenza, a pandemic and the single largest demographic disaster of the 20th century. To what extent the flu was a result of the war?


We invite proposals for workshops, 20-minute papers, performances, or posters. Other creative responses or discussion and debate formats will also be considered.

Persian man posing for a photograph. Note a truck with British troops in the background. The Service of the 9th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the Persian Campaign, 1918. IWM Q 73032
Persian man posing for a photograph. Note a truck with British troops in the background. The Service of the 9th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the Persian Campaign, 1918. IWM Q 73032

We accept applications from individuals, community groups and academic researchers from any discipline, with an interest in relevant topics. The Centre would particularly welcome proposals that involve collaborations between community groups and academics.

Please send a brief description of no more than 300 words outlining the topic you wish to share and your preferred format of presentation.

Submissions should be made to by 29th January 2016.

Informal enquiries welcome.


From Bombay to the Western Front

On Tuesday evening, I attended a commemorative event at the Imperial War Museum North. It had been organised to reflect on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, which was the first major offensive to involve the British Indian Army.

Among the speakers at the event was Dr Santanu Das, of the English department at Kings College London. Dr Das, who is an expert in the culture and literature of the First World War, made the argument that while the First World War is often defined as the ‘clash of empires’, it could equally be defined as a watershed event in the history of cultural encounters in Europe.

Dr Das has been leading an international and interdisciplinary team of researchers and a number of cultural institutions across Europe to illuminate and examine this question during the centennial years of the war’s commemoration.

In this film we see how Dr Das has partnered with Imperial War Museum, London, In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres, and the Museum of European Culture, Berlin to scour their (and many other) vast archives for letters, photographs, literary texts, sketches, artefacts, newspapers, and audio recordings. We see how all these sources are being brought together to be examined side-by-side, in order to piece together a fuller picture of the experience of the Indian troops and labourers, and the Europeans who they came into contact with.

Community Challenge Fund

IWM_ART_002344One of our main aims at the Centre for Hidden Histories is to support local groups and societies keen to commemorate the role of their communities in the First World War.

With that in mind,  we’re very pleased to invite applications to our Community Challenge Fund. This scheme offers grants of up to £500 for community group activities that investigate and commemorate the legacies of the years 1914-19.

We are particularly keen to offer support to projects that focus on histories that fall outside of the traditional image of the Western Front. These histories may include, but are not limited to, themes of migration and displacement, the experience of ‘others’ from countries and regions within Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, and the impact and subsequent legacies of the war on diverse communities within Britain and the impact on remembrance and commemoration, identity and faith.

The funds will enable community groups to gain access to research and/or technical facilities and expertise in order to develop projects or to support an event or visit in support of their research.

Challenge Funds are not limited in any particular way, but applicants are encouraged to demonstrate the research they are aiming to achieve. Funded activities could include:

  • Support to undertake a specific piece of research, such as funding travel to an archive
  • Funding for training in research or presentation skills
  • Access to research facilities and research support


This is an open call and there is no formal closing date for applications. However, projects must be completed by 31st December 2016 to meet the terms of the grant.


To apply, please complete the online form