Historical debates

100 years on from the outbreak of World War One, with all soldiers of the war now dead, the task of telling the story of the conflict falls to historians and our collective understanding. How have these views changed over time? What aspects are debated and what are the important debates of the coming years?

Cupidity

The debate on the origins of World War One

Article by:
Annika Mombauer

Beginning with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Dr Annika Mombauer explores the opposing debates about the origins of World War One. Is it possible for historians to arrive at a consensus?

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British tank in Flanders

Haig and British generalship during the war

Article by:
Laura Walker

Archivist and Curator Laura Walker compares and contrasts the historical responses to Sir Douglas Haig, a controversial figure who led the Somme and Passchendaele offensives and under whose leadership the war was won.

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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 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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Series of photographs showing attack by 1/1st Gurkhas

Photography

Article by:
Stephen Badsey

From portraits of soldiers to official government images, Professor Stephen Badsey examines the private and public use of photography in World War One and its value as a historical source.

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Serbian officer in an observation point near Kajmakcalan Hill (detail)

How did soldiers cope with war?

Article by:
Matthew Shaw

Curator Dr Matthew Shaw, explores notions of patriotism, social cohesion, routine and propaganda, to ask how soldiers of World War One were able to psychologically cope with the realities of combat.

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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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Four wounded Indian soldiers convalescing in a hospital in Brighton, 1915.

Historiography of World War One

Article by:
Yohann le Tallec

Ways of writing and thinking about World War One have developed and changed over the past 100 years. Yohann le Tallec examines these differences in historical research and writing, focusing on the broad move away from military history towards an approach that places human beings at its centre.

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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.

Civilians

What was life like for civilians, women, children and those displaced by the fighting?

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?