University announces WW1 trauma project

By Editor, 28 June 2018 - 2:37pm

Nurses with shell-shocked soldiers at Sir William Hospital (Credit: CORBIS/Getty Images)

Nurses with shell-shocked soldiers at Sir William Hospital (Credit: CORBIS/Getty Images)
 

The University of Nottingham has announced plans for a new project that aims to explore the stories of psychological trauma experienced by soldiers during the First World War.

The community engagement project will focus on a wide range of trauma narratives, including post-1918 literary and poetic references right through to the experiences of contemporary family historians who have been affected by uncovering mental health problems of ancestors involved in the war.

With the centenary of the First World War, many community groups have expressed an interest in examining the human impact of the war and have raised the difficulties of comprehending the events of the war.

The project is being led by Professor Nigel Hunt, a trauma expert in the University's Division of Psychiatry and Applied Psychology, and historian Dr Larissa Allwork, who are part of the University's Centre for Hidden Histories.

Five First World War engagement centres have been established by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to support community groups who will be equipped with the skills to meet the challenges of researching trauma, ensuring that this crucial perspective on the First World War is not forgotten.

Professor Nigel Hunt said: "The differences between historical and contemporary perspectives on mental and emotional trauma present a challenge to community researchers as it 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 or community."

As part of the project, Professor Hunt and Dr Allwork will be holding a series of public workshops across the UK for community groups on the topic of trauma, the First World War and its aftermath.

The psychologists and historians are interested in hearing about any stories of trauma which have been uncovered by community history projects as part of their research. They are particularly keen on:

  • Autobiographical narratives by soldiers on the front line who suffered from shell shock
  • Observations on shell shock by First World War era doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists
  • Observations on shell shock in First World War era 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
  • Encounters with stories of trauma associated with histories of migration and displacement

Anyone who is researching stories of trauma as part of a First World War centenary community research project can contact larissa.allwork@nottingham.ac.uk or on Twitter @LarissaAllwork

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