Their Past, Their Memory?

King’s College, London, Friday 15th September 2017

A one-day interdisciplinary workshop hosted at King’s College, London as part of the AHRC funded Teaching and Learning War Research Network to explore young people’s engagement with and receptivity to the cultural memory messages of the two world wars from an international comparative perspective. We welcome abstract submissions from academic researchers and educational practitioners in schools, museums, non-profit organisations, archives and heritage organisations.

Call for papers:

At the centenary of WW1 in the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand young people find themselves front and centre of both state-sponsored and community-level commemorations. As the two world wars fade from living memory, young people across the Commonwealth have been singled out as those who will be carrying the memory of the war forward. Early indications suggest similar emphasis will be placed on young people in the 80th and 90th anniversaries of WW2.

It is at this juncture, as the commemorative focus in Britain and the Commonwealth shifts from WW1 to WW2, that new questions arise about 1) the ways these cataclysmic events are taught in the 21st century, 2) what cultural memory messages feature in education, 3) how young people respond to and interpret these messages and 4) the relationship between education and commemoration. While study of memory and war remembrance has intensified in recent years, the way young people engage with the cultural messages about these seminal historical events is largely unexplored. Educational sites where memory of the two world wars are communicated and received are multifarious including (amongst many examples) curriculum content, text books, field trips, museum exhibitions and youth panels, theatre (performance and education packs), re-enactment, and creative writing. Interrogating the practices of teaching and learning about war remembrance has the potential to illuminate how memories of war are shaped. As Roediger and Wertsch identify, education is one of the ‘core disciplines for a new field of memory studies’ as ‘many of the almost unconscious attitudes that students have about the past’ are traceable to elements of ‘the educational process’.

The two world wars – as crucial moments of crisis where the ‘British world’ came together as a larger community of common interest – remain significant features of the curriculum, both formal and informal, in Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. At the same time, they raise important questions about the teaching of the history of the British Empire, an area of heated contemporary debate across the Commonwealth. What is being remembered via teaching and learning activities, why, and with what consequences for young people? How as researchers and educators do we measure student receptivity and ensure an authentic portrayal of their voice and perceptions? To what extent are these issues in the teaching and remembrance of the two world wars relevant beyond the British world, particularly in former non-white colonies such as India, Jamaica and Kenya?

Furthermore, how do educators in Britain and internationally negotiate the distinctions between different white, non-white and indigenous experiences of war in their educational practice and offer inclusive teaching? What are the challenges of teaching and commemorating war in ways that engage young people of diverse backgrounds? The workshop is about theory and practice, researchers and educators. We hope to hear from researchers exploring these topics and questions from a theoretical and practical perspective, and who draw on empirical examples from both within and beyond Britain. Equally, we wish to hear from educators at all levels and across different kinds of institutions (schools, museums, non-profit organisations, archives and heritage organisations) regarding how they work at the nexus of remembrance and education of the two world wars.

While not exhaustive contributions may address the following topics in relation to the two world wars (including the Holocaust and the British Empire):

  • Current practices of remembrance and education inside and outside the classroom
  • Education as a site of memory
  • Heritage, education and commemoration
  • Purposes of remembering and educating
  • Inclusions and exclusions in curriculum and content
  • Inclusive teaching and remembrance for young people from a diversity of backgrounds
  • Knowledge, politics and power in ‘remembrance education’
  • Thanotourism/dark tourism
  • Youth engagement, attitudes and reception
  • Case studies from beyond Britain and the Commonwealth (particularly India,
  • Jamaica, and Kenya)
  • Methodological challenges and innovations in the co-production of memory studies research with young people

The event will be structured around short presentations of no more than 15 minutes ensuring maximum time for group discussion.

General queries and abstracts of no more than 200 words should be sent to Catriona Pennell ( by 9 June 2017. Please include your name, organisation/institution and contact email in the abstract.

While the workshop is free to attend for all, the AHRC is also providing fifteen travel bursaries of up to £100pp for those travelling from outside the Greater London area – please indicate on your abstract/in your email whether you would like to be considered for the bursary. Priority will be given to PGRs, ECRs, and representatives of non-academic institutions/organisations.

Centenary News – First World War 1914-1918

Centenary News is a not for profit social enterprise that has been set up to provide independent, impartial and international coverage of the Centenary of the First World War.

The site has the following sections:

News Items – Debates – Videos – Articles and Blogs – Centenary News Features – Book Reviews – Events Diary – Organisation Profiles


A Century Back – Writing the Great War, Day by Day

I’ve just come across this site which, along similar lines to our Facebook page, follows 26 writers and posts excerpts of something that was written or discusses something that happened a century ago to the day. The goal is ‘to build a long, slow literary history of the British experience of the Western Front.

Song of the Poets for Choir and Orchestra

This new piece by Canadian composer Abigal Richardson-Schulte was commissioned by the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Thunder Bay Symphony and Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra for the international WWI commemoration project The World Remembers. Song of the Poets is a six minute work for choir and orchestra based on excerpts from five poems written by soldiers of First World War – Canadian John McCrae,  English poet Wilfred Owen, French poets Louis Aragon and Luc Durtain and German poet Gerrit Engelke.

The composer says

These are not graphic poems of fighting, nor are they propaganda to gain support for the war effort. Each of these poems looks at the outcome of war, told with the perspective of poets able to see beyond their own circumstances. The music is simple and narrative in order to best impart the text. Each section has its own distinct musical themes however there are similarities to link each section together to form a unified piece, despite the language and perspective differences of five different voices. We seamlessly follow their stories through place and time.

More information:

Composer’s website

Information supplied by Penelope Monkhouse

EA Projects and Contributions

British Poetry of the First World War, Wadham College, Oxford, 5-7  September, 2014

To mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, the English Association hosted a major international conference, British Poetry of the First World War, in Oxford in September 2014. The conference Patron was Professor Jon Stallworthy (University of Oxford) and the Convenor was Professor Tim Kendall (University of Exeter).

Keynote speakers were Professor Edna Longley (Queen’s University, Belfast) and Professor Jay Winter (Yale University). Events included lectures, readings, a recital presented by the composer Ian Venables, with baritone Roderick Williams accompanied by pianist Gary Matthewman, exhibitions, a book launch and Conference Dinner.

Societies, associations and fellowships concerned with poetry and poets of the Great War were invited to participate in this conference, including having the opportunity for stands to promote their activities and publications. Providing a forum for these groups, who do so much to sustain interest in war poetry and to further understanding of its contexts, was a key aim of the conference.

Visit the conference website: