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.

Artwork of war graves/cemetery

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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Crop of manuscript draft

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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Crop of manuscript draft

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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illustration showing figures wearing gas masks

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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Crop of block of text

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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Photograph of the backs of a group of soldiers

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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Poster of a music concert (c) IWM (Art.IWM PST 6980)

Wartime popular music

Article by:
John Mullen

Although popular music from 1914–18 often made no mention of war at all, it was nevertheless shaped by wartime preoccupations, anxieties and fantasies. John Mullen explores how people listened to and performed popular songs during World War One, and what this tells us about life in Britain at the time.

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Italy personified as a woman standing tall and holding out a sword. Behind her stands the Italian flag in full colour of red, white and green.

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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Illustration of battle scene

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 World War One 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 World War One. 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?

Wounding and medicine

How were soldiers injured in World War One and how did doctors, nurses and scientists treat them?

Historical debates

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