APRIL 5TH-6TH 2014
University of Sunderland
A three-day international conference will explore the impact of this first truly global war on the history, culture, philosophy, language and politics of the 100 years following it.
The ‘Great War’ is often regarded as a watershed in both western and global experience: the first war to involve mass mobilization of forces across Europe and the involvement of every strata of society; the first participation of the USA in a European war; the first adoption of new and formidable weapons mobilised without the consideration of civilians; the first deployment of colonial forces in Europe; the first pursuit of global warfare on every ocean; the first time a European war was fought in Africa; the first mobilization of women for war production, and their engagement in medical services for the fighting everywhere; and the first unprecedented deployment of new technology in the form of submarines.
The aftermath of World War I heralded a new world order. The Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires collapsed. Successful revolutions in Russia and Turkey took place alongside failed revolutions in Germany and Hungary. The United States rose from a regional to an international power. As Hobsbawm has said, ‘[i]f there was a moment when the nineteenth-century “principle of nationality” triumphed it was at the end of World War I’. This had ramifications both for nationalism in Europe and for the non-western world. New nations emerged in Europe and the Middle East and challenges to the racial order were felt throughout the world. Changed perspectives and political ideals everywhere followed in its wake.
The conference will focus upon the legacies of this First World War, its impact on literary, critical, cultural and philosophical imaginaries in the west and abroad as well as politics, international diplomacy and attitudes towards conflict. Unlike The Second World War, the transformative power of the event remains vague in the minds of many contemporary observers. Whereas the poetry of British war poets such as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen continue as canonical in Britain, few films, apart from the pacifist classic – All Quiet on the Western Front – explore the War’s global impact.
How has the Great War been represented, for example, in the literature and film of the former colonies such as Kenya and India, and in the Middle East. What is the place and of the Great War in different collective memories? In what ways did it stimulate both the principle of nationality and the processes of globalisation?