The African Heritage and Educational Centre is an organisation dedicated to the promotion of a positive image and understanding of African culture and traditions. One of the methods that it uses is to help people to learn about African heritage. The occasion of the centenary of the First World War has provided an opportunity for the centre to focus on the impact of that conflict on the continent and to create resources that will help people to find out some of the ways that this ‘European War’ was felt far from European shores.
With the help of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the AHEC has collected a series of maps that show the shifting boundaries in African territories as snapshots from before, during and after the war. The maps are presented with information that helps the reader to understand the context and history operating behind these changes.
There are seven sections which focus on different areas of Africa. Each section includes background information which provides an overview of the African territories that were controlled by the European nations and include discussion questions.
The material, which can be downloaded for use in the classroom, is grouped under several headings. The first section focuses on two political maps of Africa, the first map in 1914 and the second map in 1920 giving an overview of the changes following Germany’s defeat in the First World War. The other sections focus on the impact of the First World War on territories that were controlled by Germany in more detail.
Last week, the Centre held a discussion event about the relationship between Britain and Germany during and since the First World War. With the help of several invited speakers, we discussed the impact of war on the German community in Britain, the realities of internment and the changing patterns of Germanophobia and Germanophilia in the twentieth century.
Professor Panikos Panayi of De Montfort University presented some fascinating material on the changing attitudes to Germany on the part of the British people, including examples and commentary on phenomena such as the proliferation of anti-German invasion literature such as the Invasion of 1910 by William Le Quex, the use of stereotypes in propaganda as well as broadly positive stereotypes of Germans, such as a tendency to efficiency and skill in engineering.
Penny Walker from the Highfields Association of Residents and Tenants in Leicester, discussed her project How Saxby Street Got Its Name, which tells the story of how German-sounding streets in Leicester, including Hanover Street, Saxe-Coburg Street and Gotha Street were Anglicised during the war and are still known as Andover Street, Saxby Street and Gotham Street.
Louise Page, a playwright from Derbyshire, discussed her extensive interest in the topic, including her plans for projects that examine how the spread of anti-German feeling was experienced by members of the German diaspora in Britain. Her focus in on the personal, such as the sensitivity that people felt about their German names, and on the continuity of such attitudes towards other people today.
Dr Maggie Butt, of Middlesex University, gave a presentation of her work on the internment camp at Alexandra Palace. From 1915 to 1919 it was used as a camp for civilian internees, who were billeted according to class. Her project includes retellings of the first-hand stories of several specific internees, including the Old Harrovian R.H. Sauter and the anarchist intellectual Rudolf Rocker.
Andy Barrett of Excavate Community Theatre was accompanied by Heinke and Joyce from the Lutheran congregation in Aspley. They have access to a community of elders from the German community who have many stories to tell. They would like to record these stories and present them in a performative way.
Dr Claudia Sternberg from the University of Leeds told the story of Sophie Hellweg and Frank West, a British-German couple whose lives embodied some of the pressure that was felt by the people in mixed marriages during and after wartime.
Following these excellent presentations, we held a discussion about the topics and themes that had been raised. This included the relative strangeness of the British experience, with largely fixed borders, as compared to the more fluid nation-states of continental Europe, including Germany. This has contributed to a particular sense of the meaning of the First and Second World Wars that is not necessarily shared on the continent and which is having an impact on the progress of the Centenary of World War One. There is a great desire on the part of the public to learn more about the relationship between Britain and Germany (and between British and German people) that is shared by professional researchers. It is not necessarily shared by official bodies and some delegates reported difficulties in getting public authorities to support their work.
Nevertheless, we finished the discussions resolved to do more to explore this fascinating area of history. The event provided an excellent opportunity for delegates to share contact details and to make plans for collaboration. We are now planning to develop a pattern of projects that will explore and share these histories and ensure that the Centenary does not pass without addressing them.
If you’re interesting in developing a project about the German-British experience, or have a story to share, please get in touch.
One of our main aims at the Centre for Hidden Histories is to support local groups and societies keen to commemorate the role of their communities in the First World War.
With that in mind, we’re very pleased to invite applications to our Community Challenge Fund. This scheme offers grants of up to £500 for community group activities that investigate and commemorate the legacies of the years 1914-19.
We are particularly keen to offer support to projects that focus on histories that fall outside of the traditional image of the Western Front. These histories may include, but are not limited to, 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 and the impact on remembrance and commemoration, identity and faith.
The funds will enable community groups to gain access to research and/or technical facilities and expertise in order to develop projects or to support an event or visit in support of their research.
Challenge Funds are not limited in any particular way, but applicants are encouraged to demonstrate the research they are aiming to achieve. Funded activities could include:
Support to undertake a specific piece of research, such as funding travel to an archive
Funding for training in research or presentation skills
Access to research facilities and research support
This is an open call and there is no formal closing date for applications. However, projects must be completed by 31st December 2016 to meet the terms of the grant.
The Centenary of the First World War provides an opportunity to build on the renewed popular interest in the war to collaborate and share expertise. Here are some of the initiatives that are offering such chances.
The Lives programme is the Imperial War Museum’s effort to build a permanent digital memorial to the Lives of the First World War. The site offers people the opportunity to work with the IWM to piece together more than 8 million life stories, share them, and enable IWM to save them for future generations.
Each individual whose contribution to the First World War is recorded in official documents will have a personal Life Story page. Information about each person and their wartime experiences can be connected to Life Stories by members of the public who access the site.
Link together evidence relating to the same person, using records from museums, libraries and archives across the world.
Add references to sources they have discovered elsewhere.
Upload digital images of their own precious family mementoes.
Include family stories and personal knowledge.
Group together individuals they are interested in by creating your own Community
As more and more people connect facts to Life Stories, the project can begin to piece together each individual’s life story.
Operation War Diary is an effort to tag, classify and understand original documents from the First World War.
It brings together original First World War documents from The National Archives, the historical expertise of IWM and the power of the Zooniverse community.Working together, they and their volunteers will make previously inaccessible information available to academics, researchers and family historians worldwide, leaving a lasting legacy for the centenary of the First World War.
Data gathered through Operation War Diary will be used for three main purposes:
to enrich The National Archives’ catalogue descriptions for the unit war diaries,
The British Library archives the whole of the UK web domain under the terms of the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013. This is done in an automated way, typically once a year.
In addition, their Special Collections are groups of websites, usually more than fifty and less than four hundred, brought together on a particular theme. These have been especially compiled by curators and other subject specialist to make useful and interesting Special Collections.
The First World War Centenary 2014-18 is a Special Collection that gathers suitable websites from the centenary period.
The Special Collection is open to sites that are issued from a .uk or other UK geographic top-level domain or where part of the publishing process takes place in the UK.
Sites concerning film and recorded sound where the audio-visual content predominates (but, for example, web pages containing video clips alongside text or images are within scope), private intranets and emails and personal data will not be included.
Site owners can nominate their site for inclusion here
Here at the Centre for Hidden Histories we spend a lot of our time talking about the roles that different faiths, nationalities and groups played in the First World War. This, we believe, is a valuable endeavour, but it still doesn’t tell the whole story. Perhaps nothing ever will, but to even approach a comprehensive understanding of the war, there is another group to consider. The people of Germany.
For reasons too obvious to list, the relationship between Britain and Germany was forever changed by the war. This had an impact at the state, community and individual levels and traces of this impact can still be felt today.
On the 23rd March we will be hosting a discussion event to explore these issues and to develop project ideas to investigate them further. We invite community groups to share project ideas for investigating this relationship and the different meanings that the war had, and continues to have, in the two countries.
Discussion topics are likely to include:
The impact of war on German communities in Britain
The history of prisoner of war camps
Attitudes to memorialisation in Britain and Germany
This is not an exhaustive list and we’d be delighted to consider any topic that falls within our theme of the relationship between British and German people during and since the First World War.
The event is free, but places are limited. Tickets can be booked here.
Britain, Germany and the First World War Discussion Event
A Nottinghamshire artist has found a unique way of remembering those who served, and those who continue to do so. Michael Noble takes a look.
Joy Pitts is a multiple award-winning contemporary artist based in Nottinghamshire. She works primarily with garments, which she sees as expressive of our individual identity and way of life. Her work assembles these individual identities into a shared whole that represents the collection of individualities that we call society.
This concept has a natural mirror in the idea of war memorials that place individual names in a shared space. One of Joy’s current projects reflects this by seeking to gather individually-sewn names of servicemen and women and present them as a single art work on canvas that will depict a pair of military boots. The Military Boots project is a collaborative effort being undertaken as part of Nottinghamshire’s Trent to Trenches programme.
Joy would like to invite you to contribute to this project by stitching the name of those in your family past or present who have served or are serving in the Armed Forces onto a strip of cotton tape for her to add to the art work. She will provide the materials, you just need to provide the names and a little bit of your time.
Joy says ‘during World War One it was common for both men and women to sew; repairing clothing at home and in the trenches, embroidering messages to send to loved ones and sewing bandages. This project recalls these activities and invites you to make your own hand made acknowledgement to those who serve.’
If you are interested in taking part, you can contact Joy directly here to request a stitch pack.