History and cultural memory of twentieth-century world wars
Current and recent research projects and other activities
“The Materialisation of Persuasion”: Modernist Exhibitions in Britain for Propaganda and Resistance, 1933 to 1953, Dr Harriet Atkinson, AHRC Leadership Fellow 2019-23
Current and recent PhD research
Lauren Auger, Memory and identity in life stories of British war bride veterans of the Second World War in Canada (PhD awarded, 2017)
Ian Cantoni, Camp de Rivesaltes; topography of French cultural memory, AHRC/Techne studentship (PhD awarded, 2019)
Kristin O’Donnell, Participatory Practices of Memory: Memorialising the Great War in Britain during the Centenary Moment, AHRC/Techne National Productivity Investment Fund studentship in partnership with Dover Arts Development
Jason Porter, Hidden from History: The politics of forgetting and remembering homosexual victims of Nazism
Rosemary Rich, The memory of Second World War conscientious objection since 1945, AHRC/Techne studentship
Kasia Tomasiewicz, The Imperial War Museum and public memory of the Second World War, an AHRC/Techne Collaborative Doctoral Partnership award in collaboration with Imperial War Museums
Claudia Treacher, Radical Art During WWII: Conscientious Objection in the Work of Don Treacher, AHRC/Techne studentship
Staff researchers, postdoctoral researchers and honorary research fellows
Dr Eugene Michail; Dr Harriet Atkinson. For details of individual research interests, see ‘Who We Are’ and follow the links
Contact: Dr Eugene Michail E.Michail@brighton.ac.uk
Led by Dr Eugene Michail, and building on the work for CMNH of Prof. Lucy Noakes, who now works at the University of Essex,
this research area initiates new approaches in the social and cultural history of the Second World War and its aftermath, and investigates the theory and practice of cultural memory concerned with both the First and Second World Wars. Its achievements have developed through collaborative partnerships with museums, including the Royal Marines Museum, Southsea, which hosted a one-day national conference on ‘War, Silence and Memory in Modern Britain’ in 2011; and through academic collaborations notably that with colleagues from Strathclyde University and the University of Portsmouth in the organisation of a major three-day, international and interdisciplinary conference, supported by a British Academy Conference Funding grant, on ‘The Second World War: Popular Culture and Cultural Memory’, hosted by CMNH in July 2011. This conference led to a co-edited collection, British Cultural Memory and the Second World War, eds Lucy Noakes & Juliette Pattinson (Palgrave MacMillan, 2013).
Since 2008 Dr Noakes has published widely in edited books and academic journals, including the Journal of War and Culture Studies and the Journal of Contemporary History, on themes including website history-making on WW2, women at war, gender and citizenship during total war, and the wartime culture of bereavement and grieving. She has given over two dozen public lectures and other talks to organisations including the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, the Royal United Services Institute in London, and the British Embassy in Finland, as well as universities in Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia, Germany and Italy. In 2014 Dr Noakes, in collaboration with historians of World War Two from the University of Sussex, secured one of six annual nominations to organise a British Academy Conference, hosted at the BA, London, on the topic ‘War: An Emotional History’, out of which an edited collection is planned. Besides presenting a paper at this conference, her public presentations in 2014 have addressed a wide variety of audiences, notably a paper on remembrance in the 1930s delivered at the Royal United Services Institute symposium on the First World War,attended by politicians, civil servants and senior military personnel, in November; and various contributions to the BBC’s ‘The War at Home’ programmes, including a televised interview about Zeppelins and air raids in First World War Britain (July 2014 and repeated subsequently).
Other Centre researchers have also contributed to this research area. In 2009 Professor Graham Dawson, as well as Dr Noakes, spoke at the ‘War, Gender and Myths of Military Conquest’ conference, co-organised by CMNH with the German Research Council (the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) and the Universities of Salford and Reading, and held at the Carl Von Ossietzky University, Oldenburg. This international and interdisciplinary conference developed collaborative and comparative exchange between researchers in Germany and Britain investigating memories of aerial and sea warfare in the twentieth century, and exploring the different theoretical traditions in memory studies, in the two countries. A forthcoming edited collection includes Prof. Dawson’s essay on the popular memory of World War Two in Britain. Former member of CMNH’s Steering Group, Dr Rebecca Bramall – who now works at London College of Communication, University of the Arts – explored the significance of cultural memories of the Second World War for the politics of austerity in Britain since the financial crash, in her monograph The Cultural Politics of Austerity: Past and Present in Austerity Times (2013) and an essay in Noakes and Pattinson. These publications developed ideas first explored spoken in Dr Bramall’s presentation in the CMNH seminar series 2008-09 and in the Annual Symposium 2012, ‘History, Memory and Green Imaginaries’, which she organised. In April-May 2014, CMNH sponsored an exhibition, ‘Healing War Through Art’, at the University Gallery in Grand Parade. Co-organised by Visiting Researchers Pawel Leszkowicz and Tomasz Kitlinski, and Dr Gillian Scott from the School of Humanities, the exhibition examined the role of art and craft training in the rehabilitation of limbless soldiers from the Brighton Pavilion Hospital from 1916–19, and was accompanied by a seminar exploring its curation and resonance with contemporary debates about war, disability and military rehabilitation. In 2015 Dr Eugene Michail joined CMNH’s researcher membership, introducing new expertise in the history and memory of the World Wars in the Balkans, in the context of more recent war and conflict.
Five doctoral students, located and supervised within the Centre, are working on cultural memory of the two World Wars. Lauren Auger’s thesis explores Memory and the negotiation of gendered and national identities in life stories of British war bride veterans of the Second World War in Canada. Lisa Hardie, recipient of a fully funded University of Brighton Doctoral Studentship on ‘Negotiating post-conflict spaces’, is researching ‘Memorial Landscapes: The Case of New Zealand Visitors to Gallipoli’ . Ian Cantoni’s research on ‘Camp de Rivesaltes: A Topography of French Cultural Memory’ – supported by a fully funded studentship awarded by the AHRC/TECHNE consortium – focuses on the site of a Second World War concentration camp and its subsequent uses, as a prism for investigating a wider history of conflict in France. In April 2016, as a result of CMNH’s successful application to co-supervise a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership studentship advertised by the Imperial War Museum, London, Kasia Tomasiewicz began her PhD on ‘The IWM and Public Memory of the Second World War’. Frances Casey has a fully funded AHRC/TECHNE studentship to research ‘Gendered Identities and the Role of Needlecrafts in Britain on the Home Front during and after the First World War, 1914-1925’.
In addition to our success in competitive applications to win external funding support for doctoral students and conferences, CMNH has secured a number of other grants for research and/or partnership development concerned with the history and cultural memory of the two World Wars. In 2010 Prof. Dawson was awarded a small grant under the ‘On Our Doorsteps’ scheme run by Brighton’s Community University Partnership Project (CUPP), to develop an innovative skills and knowledge exchange with the Brighton and Hove Black History (BHBH) community group. Titled ‘Black History and Cultural Memory: The India Gateway Commemoration Project’, this brought academic staff from the School of Humanities together with BHBH co-ordinators and community volunteers, to develop dialogue and activities in support of BHBH’s planned commemoration in October 2010 of the 69th anniversary of Brighton’s India Gateway – itself a memorial site closely associated with Brighton Pavilion’s use as a hospital for soldiers from India injured on the Western Front during the First World War.
In 2013 Dr Noakes co-ordinated CMNH’s participation in a South-East regional consortium which secured three years funding under the auspices of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Connected Communities theme and the joint Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)/Heritage Lottery Fund (HTF) programme to establish Co-ordinating Centres for Community Research and Engagement to Commemorate the Centenary of the First World War. Also involving the Universities of Kent, Sussex, Portsmouth, Southampton and Greenwich as well as community groups and museums including French partners, the ‘Gateways to the First World War’ public engagement centre began its work in January 2014, with Dr Noakes as a Co-Investigator. Her activities have included participation in Public Information days on the First World War held at Brighton Museum (September 2014) and the National Maritime Museum, London (September 2014); and a public lecture at Woolwich Arsenal on Women and the First World War, organised by HTF in October 2014. A key aspect of the Gateways Centre is working with groups applying for, and awarded, funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund for projects concerning the First World War. CMNH’s involvement in the Gateways Centre has been further enhanced by our administrator and Community History coordinator, Dr Sam Carroll’s, work as Community Heritage Researcher for the Engagement Centre in Kent. In a connected development, Prof. Dawson has participated in a workshop and given a public lecture organised by Leicester CND as part of its HTF-funded ‘Memories in Conflict’ project which focuses on local history and popular memory of resistance to the First World War in Leicester. In February 2016, in collaboration with the ‘Gateways to the First World War’, Professor Albert Grundlingh (Stellenbosch University, South Africa) gave a special seminar on ‘Mutating Memories and the Making of a Wartime Myth in South Africa: Remembering the SS Mendi Disaster 1917- 2007’. In August 2016 the Engagement Centre was awarded a further £500,000 by the AHRC to continue its work until December 2019 and CMNH will continue to work with the Engagement Centre on a variety of local, regional, national and international projects throughout this period.
Also in 2014, Dr Noakes, together with her long-standing collaborative partner Professor Susan R. Grayzel of the University of Mississippi, USA, won an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Collaborative Research Fellowship for a two-year project on ‘Gender, Citizenship and the Non-Combatant at War in a Democratic State’, beginning in September 2014. Whilst in the USA, Dr Noakes delivered by invitation a prestigious public lecture on ‘Burying the People of the People’s War: Death, the State and Intimacy in Second World War Britain’, to the ‘War and Intimacy’ Lecture Series organised by the George L. Mosse program and Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin, Madison USA, October 2014.
Increasingly, CMNH’s research activity brings work on the History and Memory of Twentieth-Century World Wars into relation with research into other, historically prior and more recent wars and forms of violent political conflict, and their ‘postwar’, ‘post-conflict’ aftermaths. At the War: An Emotional History conference, these included European wars of religion in the 16th and 17th centuries, the American Civil War, the Falklands-Malvinas War, and the war in and over Northern Ireland. At CMNH’s Annual Symposium 2013, on ‘New Approaches to the History and Memory of War and Conflict’, this comparative and trans-historical approach was made explicit in panels with thematic links across World Wars One and Two; the ‘Mau Mau’ War in Kenya; Northern Ireland; the war of the 1990s in Bosnia Herzegovina; and the 21st centuries wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as associated forms of ‘terrorism’.
In October 2015 a special symposium to mark the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, titled The Armenian Tragedy: A Commemorative Symposium, was hosted by CMNH and organised by a network of Armenian scholars and activists from the diaspora, and members of the local Turkish community. Such links and wider approaches are also promoted by the University’s Understanding Conflict: Forms and Legacies of Violence research cluster, established in 2013 and collaboratively co-led by CMNH and the Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics.
In November 2015 CMNH, together with the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton and the AHRC Gateways to the First World War Engagement Centre, organised a conference reflecting upon and celebrating the presence of soldiers from India in Brighton during the First World War. Voices of India: the First World War bought together scholars, researchers and public figures from India and Brighton to discuss the presence of Indian troops in the town, where they were sent to recuperate from their injuries on the Western Front, and the wider history of India and the First World War. Launched with an evening public lecture by Glyn Prysor, Chief Historian at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, conference participants included Rhana Chhina, from the Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research, USI of India, Dr Santanu Das, King’s College London, and Anita Armand, BBC journalist and author. The conference was followed by a reception in the Royal Pavilion.