Flanders Fields, muddy trenches, the poetry of Wilfred Owen, poppies, the final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth…ask anyone to conjure an image of the First World War and it is likely to feature something along these lines.
Despite their now iconic status, they don’t offer us the complete picture of what became one of the deadliest conflicts in history.
Now, in the year that marks the 100th anniversary of the Great War, a new national research centre has been launched at The University of Nottingham that will help to explore some of the lesser known stories of the years 1914-19.
The Centre for Hidden Histories is aiming to pair local groups and societies keen to commemorate the role of their communities in the war with University academics who can offer guidance on how to make their vision a reality.
They are particularly keen to offer support to people in the Sikh, Muslim, West Indian and Caribbean, Eastern European and Jewish communities, which have been widely affected by the century-long legacy of the First World War but whose stories are often overlooked in the narrative perpetuated by the media.
Professor John Beckett, in the University’s Department of History, is leading the new centre. He said:
“Our project is particularly interested in the events and participants that fall outside of the traditional image of the Western Front. We intend to explore themes of migration and displacement, the experience of ‘others’ from countries and regions within Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, and the impact and subsequent legacies of the war on diverse communities within Britain, remembrance and commemoration, and identity and faith. We are interested in hearing from community groups who are planning activities to commemorate the years 1914-19, especially those for whom the traditional Armistice Day celebrations may have strikingly different meanings.”
The Centre for Hidden Histories is one of five First World War engagement centres that have been established by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to investigate the war and support community groups in their efforts to research and commemorate the war.
Led by Nottingham, the centre is run by a consortium of universities made up of Derby, Nottingham Trent, Goldsmiths, UCL, Manchester Metropolitan and Oxford Brookes.
As well as academic and research support, the partner universities will also be able to provide some financial grants to the community groups through dedicated Community Challenge and Research Development funds.
Among the projects which the centre is already supporting are:
- Assistance with arranging and recording anti-war songs in the West Indian tradition to commemorate the contribution made by the West Indies — the Caribbean colonies were represented by more than 18,000 officers and soldiers.
- The creation of a tapestry that tells the story of the Sikh contribution to the First World War, using traditional Northern Indian craft.
- The development of an exhibition of the Sikh contribution that could be taken out into the community to other faith groups to develop a deeper understanding of a shared history.
The centre is keen to hear from community groups who have ideas on how to commemorate the First World One and is holding a series of roadshows where people can learn more about the project and how to get involved. These are taking place at:
Wednesday 24th September 6pm-8pm
3 North Sherwood Street, Nottingham NG1 4EZ
Saturday 27th September 10am-12pm
Satta Hasham Room
Leicester Adult Education College 2
Leicester LE1 6HL
Wednesday 1st October 6pm-8pm
The Green Room
Market Place, Cathedral Quarter
Derby DE1 3AS
Anyone interested in finding out more or booking a place can contact Community Liaison Officer Michael Noble on 0115 748 4942 or at by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org