Civilians

World War One was in many ways the first modern ‘total ‘ war, and it had far reaching implications for the army and civilians alike. It called upon women both to maintain their domestic and familial roles and to take on a variety of new roles in the workplace, meaning many played a fundamental part in the war effort. The war also uprooted millions of European civilians, most of whom were innocent bystanders.

Returned local inhabitants cultivating a field in a devastated area (detail)

The war effort at home (movement into war production, rationing, and food supply)

Article by:
David Stevenson

From the borrowing of money to the employment of women in industry, Professor David Stevenson examines the strategies used at home to maintain arms for troops, and basic supplies for civilians.

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Manufacturing ball bearings (detail)

Women at Home in a World at War

Article by:
Susan R Grayzel

Professor Susan R Grayzel studies the range of roles women carried out in World War One within domestic labour, waged industrial labour, and military nursing and doctoring.

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Mother and child wearing gas masks

Changing lives: gender expectations and roles during and after World War One

Article by:
Susan R Grayzel

Considering the roles of both men and women during World War One, Susan R Grayzel asks to what extent the war challenged gender roles and to what degree society accepted them.

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Child soldiers in a redeemed country

Children’s experiences of World War One

Article by:
Stacy Gillis , Emma Short

Drs Stacy Gillis and Emma Short draw on surviving schoolwork and propaganda to explore how World War One affected all aspects of children’s lives.

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Vesnik - the Herald (detail)

News from the front

Article by:
Stephen Badsey

Professor Stephen Badsey reflects on how letters, parcels, and newspapers – although subject to censorship – kept family and friends in touch with soldiers serving in World War One.

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Frederik and Mathilde Bajer (detail)

Pacifism and Conscientious Objection

Article by:
Martin Ceadel

With particular focus on conscription, Professor Martin Ceadal discusses instances of pacifism and conscientious objection during World War One in Britain, the US, Canada and New Zealand.

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Drawing by Belgian artist Gisbert Combaz (1869-1941) showing the people of Louvain, Belgium fleeing the city. On 25 August 1914, German soldiers burnt down the city after killing hundreds of civilians.

The ‘German Atrocities’ of 1914

Article by:
Sophie de Schaepdrijver

What were the ‘German Atrocities’? Associate Professor Sophie de Schaepdrijver examines the civilian massacres in Belgium and northern France that were perpetrated by the German armies in 1914.

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N. 308. La Suisse

Europe on the move: refugees and World War One

Article by:
Peter Gatrell

Professor Peter Gatrell examines the upheaval and struggles faced by millions of European civilians who were made refugees – either by enemy occupation or by the state’s forcible deportation – during World War One.

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The Battle of Borjimow

Witnessing and remembering Russia’s war

Article by:
Ekaterina Rogatchevskaia

Lead Curator Dr Katya Rogatchevskaia draws on diaries, memoirs and other personal accounts to explore the experiences of Russian civilians and soldiers during World War One.

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Villain! This is your work! (detail)

The Long Shadow of the ‘German Atrocities’ of 1914

Article by:
Sophie de Schaepdrijver

Associate Professor Sophie de Schaepdrijver considers how the ‘German atrocities’ have been represented during and after World War One by both the Allied countries and Germany.

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Further Themes

Origins, outbreak and conclusions

How did World War One begin? Why did it escalate and what was the impact of both war and peace on the countries involved?

The war machine

How were the 65 million men who fought in WWI recruited, armed and organised?

Life as a soldier

What was life like for the millions of professional, conscripted or recruited soldiers?

Race, empire and colonial troops

Over four million non-white men served in WWI. Explore more about their lives and responsibilities.

Propaganda

How was propaganda used to inspire patriotism, dehumanise the enemy and change opinions?

Representation and memory

In addition to poetry, what were the other creative responses to the War? How have these affected our memory and understanding?

Historical debates

How have the views of historians and our understanding of World War One changed over time?