WW1 trauma project launched
Researchers want to hear from family historians who have uncovered tales of trauma
The University of Nottingham has announced plans for a new community engagement project that aims to explore the stories of psychological trauma from the First World War and beyond.
From shell-shocked soldiers recovering in specialist hospitals to cases of ‘barbed wire disease’ in ‘enemy alien’ internment camps, the project’s leaders are interested in hearing about any stories of trauma that have been uncovered by community history projects as part of their research to commemorate the centenary of the end of the war.
The project will focus on a wide range of trauma narratives, including post-1918 literary and poetic references and the experiences of contemporary family historians who have been affected by uncovering mental-health problems of ancestors who were involved in the conflict.
It is being led by Prof Nigel Hunt, a trauma expert in the university’s Division of Psychiatry and Applied Psychology, and historian Dr Larissa Allwork, via the university’s Centre for Hidden Histories.
Prof Hunt said: “The differences between historical and contemporary perspectives on mental and emotional trauma present a challenge to community researchers, which requires an understanding of how such trauma was regarded, described and recorded in historical records.
“An additional challenge is presented by the emotional impact on the researcher who examines potentially disturbing and upsetting material. This challenge is often felt more keenly by researchers who investigate people with whom they have a direct connection, such as members of their family.”
The Centre for Hidden Histories is one of five First World War Engagement Centres established by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, to investigate the war and to support community groups.
During the centenary, many groups have expressed an interest in examining the war’s human impact, and have raised the difficulties of comprehending its events without understanding its traumatic effects. The Engagement Centres aim to meet this need.
The new project aims to equip such groups with the skills and support to meet the challenges of researching trauma.
Prof Hunt and Dr Allwork will be holding public workshops across the UK. They are keen to hear from community projects about topics including: autobiographical narratives by soldiers who suffered from shell shock; observations on shell shock by doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists of the First World War era, and in local and national newspapers; encounters with trauma stories through family history research; encounters with stories of ‘barbed wire’ disease uncovered by research into British ‘enemy alien’ internment camps; and encounters with stories of trauma resulting from migration or displacement.
Anyone researching stories of trauma as part of a First World War community project can email Dr Allwork via firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her on Twitter @LarissaAllwork.
The differences between historical and contemporary perspectives on mental and emotional trauma present a challenge to researchers
Nurses use experimental equipment on victims of shell shock