Representation and memory

Why paint war? Why send painters to the battlefield when a photographer could capture the face of conflict so much more convincingly? Why do we often first encounter World War One as poetry rather than history? The questions are as timely now as when war broke out in Belgium in 1914.

Military cemetery at Châlons-sur-Marne, June 1917

Remembrance and memorials

Article by:
Dan Todman

Dr Dan Todman considers how remembrance and memorialisation have been used by nations and communities to negotiate the overwhelming losses of World War One.

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Rupert Brooke's The Soldier was one of the most famous poems written during the war.

Reframing First World War poetry

Article by:
Santanu Das

Dr Santanu Das considers how the examination of war poetry has changed and looks beyond typical British trench lyric to explore the variety of poetic responses.

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Literary memories of World War One

Article by:
Modris Eksteins

Focusing on works of fiction produced during the 1920s-30s, Professor Emeritus Modris Eksteins explores the role of literature as a means to confront and overcome the devastation of World War One.

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Lithograph showing soldiers with gas masks, by Belgian symbolist painter and sculptor Henry de Groux (1886-1930).

Why paint war? British and Belgian artists in World War One

Article by:
Paul Gough

Professor Paul Gough introduces British and Belgian artists of World War One, from Henry de Groux and his eyewitness responses to the Belgian invasion, to the later generation of British artists who transformed their frontline experiences into abstract, modernist artworks.

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‘Diary of a Dead Officer’: diary and poems by Arthur Graeme West, who enlisted in 1915 and was killed in 1917. The diary is one of the first published realistic accounts of life in the trenches.

Prose responses to World War One

Article by:
Vincent Trott

How did prose authors represent World War One? From works of optimism and patriotism to disillusionment and criticism, Vincent Trott looks at a range of voices from across Europe.

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Church service in the field (detail)

The silence after the war

Article by:
Julian Walker

Considering trauma, censorship and social convention, Julian Walker asks why many soldiers were unwilling or unable to talk about their experience of World War One.

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Hail, king, Hail! Patriotic anthem for chorus with one voice and piano

World War One and Classical Music

Article by:
Kate Kennedy

As there were war poets, were there also war composers? Dr Kate Kennedy reflects on the role of classical music – by turns morale-raising and commemorative – and its composition among civilians and combatants.

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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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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?

Historical debates

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