YEARS

2013-2014

AUTHORS

Claire Louise Jones, Laura King, Alison Sarah Fell, James Stark, Graeme John Gooday, Claudia Sternberg

TITLE

Leeds Stories of the Great War

ABSTRACT

The First World War is too often exclusively remembered through the lens of trench experiences on the Western Front. A key aim of the project 'Legacies of War 1914-1918/2014-18' at the University of Leeds, from which this project arises, is to draw attention to diversity of experience and of the ever-present cultural, social and technological legacies of the conflict in order to broaden its meaning for a wide range of different audiences. One of the key ways in which communities engage with the heritage of the First World War is through the uncovering of local stories as a way of understanding the war as an international conflict. This project aims to uncover ways in which the war touched the everyday life, communal politics, social relations, culture and values of citizens who inhabited their street, town or region in 1914-18, the traces, memories, monuments, documents and culture it left behind, and the ways in which the mass displacement of populations during the war brought about contact with those of different social groups, nationalities and ethnicities. Leeds as a city was vital to the British war effort. It lost more men than the national average; equally, as a key industrial centre, Leeds factories and industries played an indispensable role in supplying the British troops and civilians during the war. Leeds residents also contributed in other ways: its households took in Belgian refugees; its hospitals cared for thousands of wounded soldiers from Britain (and its then Empire); its growing numbers of theatres, cinemas and music-halls catered for a war-weary population in need of entertainment. Today, in the Liddle Collection, University of Leeds, the West Yorkshire Archives (now in Morley), and Leeds Central Library, Leeds houses the most important collections of archival materials on the First World War outside of London. One of the key aims of the 'Legacies of War 1914-18/2014-18 project' is to facilitate an innovative, cross-cultural and intergenerational approach to the commemoration of the First World War. 'Leeds Stories of the Great War' aims to do this in a concrete way via a series of small co-produced research projects carried out by intergenerational Leeds community groups (consisting, for example, of sixth-formers, older people and former factory employees), collaborating with community facilitators, artists, local history experts and university academics. Taken together, the research findings of these projects will discover key aspects of Leeds life during the war, which will be made widely accessible in innovative ways to the public during the Centenary period, and will be stored in the form of a digital archive for future generations.

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