WW1 trauma project launched

Re­searchers want to hear from fam­ily his­to­ri­ans who have un­cov­ered tales of trauma

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - ON THE RECORD -

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 larissa.all­work@not­ting­ham.ac.uk 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

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