A Django site.
August 8, 2011

History Division News
hisdivnews
is about »
» The Glorious Dead?

The ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane War memorials dominate the French landscape, especially in the north where each tiny village has a statue or a plaque dedicated to men ‘Morts pour la France’. They were all built to commemorate the First World … Continue reading

October 8, 2010

History Division News
hisdivnews
is about »
» ‘Our Work Is a Mission’

The Friends’ Relief Service and Displaced People after the Second World War

<image src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/10/8/Quakers.JPG" height="550px" width="720px" /> Image: Members of FRS 124 leaving Tilbury for Ostend in July 1945, from the Friends’ Library, London. Used with permission of the Religious Society of Friends in Great Britain

Dr Fiona Reid considers past perspectives on relief work

After the Second World War there were about 10 million displaced people (DPs) in Europe alone. The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration was responsible for most of them, yet voluntary societies, such as the Friends Relief Service (FRS) played a huge role too.

The FRS was organised by the Quakers, although not all of its members were Quakers. Team members were largely motivated by the belief that humanitarian work was an expression of Christian commitment and they defined themselves against the highly professionalised model of relief work being pioneered by UNRRA. FRS teams often presented an image of themselves as simply good-hearted amateurs doing their best, yet the Quaker training and selection process was rigorous. Unlike UNRRA, FRS teams were proficient in local languages and only 1 in 10 applicants to the FRS was accepted. The Quakers clearly and deliberately understated their own training. But why? Possibly from a sense of modesty, possibly from a sense of moral superiority, or possibly because they simply felt inadequate when faced with the realities of life in a DP camp. Yet this strong world view – erroneous in itself – may well have maintained morale and protected FRS teams from some of the psychological trauma of relief work.

Fiona Reid is head of Glamorgan's History Division. Her research and teaching specialisms include the social impact of World War II and the history of refugees. This entry summarises the conclusions of her research presentation to the history division's War, Violence and Society seminar series, ‘Our Work Is a Mission’: The Friends’ Relief Service and Displaced People after the Second World War.

June 23, 2010

History Division News
hisdivnews
is about »
» Panzers in Pembrokeshire?

<image class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/6/23/michael_foot.jpg" />

Cold War Wales and the Labour Party

Why did a Labour government send British soldiers to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan?

According to Glamorgan's Norry LaPorte, the Labour Party's development since the 1980s has brought supporters of 'realpolitik' to the fore. Foreign affairs and military strategy shaped Labour's development in the UK - and in Wales. From the spectre of German tanks in Pembrokeshire, through the founding of the Greenham Common Peace Camp, to Michael Foot's disarmament campaign, Wales and Welsh Labour engaged vigorously with Cold War politics. But the British public's response to unilateralist policies finally convinced the party that a pro-American stance was the route to electoral success.

Experts will gather to discuss Cold War Wales: Peace, Politics and Culture at the University of Glamorgan on June 26th 2010. This is a Centre for Modern and Contemporary Wales event, organised by Dr Norry LaPorte, Dr Fiona Reid, and Professor Gareth Williams of Glamorgan's History Division. Download the programme and registration form here, and read more of Dr LaPorte's analysis at the Western Mail.

March 13, 2010

History Division News
hisdivnews
is about »
» Married to the Party?

Labour Women MPs - the 2010 Ursula Masson Memorial Lecture

<image class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/3/13/wilkinson.jpg" alt="Photo of Ellen Wilkinson">

In this year’s Ursula Masson Memorial Lecture, Professor June Hannam, associate dean at the University of the West of England, spoke on ‘Writing To History: Autobiographies of The First Labour Women MPs’. Ursula’s introduction to Elizabeth Andrews, A Woman’s Work is Never Done (Honno Press, 2006) placed women’s struggles at the centre of Labour politics. Yet the Labour movement itself frequently marginalised women, and Labour women MPs often described themselves as being in ‘the men’s house’ in the inter-war years.

Feminist historians have noted how nineteenth century women tended to write their life histories as novels rather than as autobiographies. This tradition still endures but the political women of the Labour party adopted a different approach: they were consciously ‘writing to history’, using their autobiographies to highlight both political and personal struggles. The relationship of these Labour MPs to women as a whole was not straightforward. Edith Summerskill entitled her memoirs A Woman’s World but no other memoir has an explicitly feminist or even woman-centred title. This is because women Labour MPs were part of a mixed-sex group, and one which privileged class over gender: their primary loyalty was to the Labour party and the common struggle not to a collective sisterhood. It was therefore difficult for them to portray women as a special category.

<image class="right" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/3/13/lee.jpg" alt="Jennie Lee Photograph">

There were also class-based and generational differences within the small group of women Labour MPs, and this diversity is reflected in the range of reasons they gave for becoming politically active in the first place. The rhetoric of the party stressed modernity: the Labour party was going to create a modern, egalitarian Britain. Yet domesticity was still highly valued and Labour women were often inspired by what we think of as traditionally female motivating factors. For many, it was their direct experience of poverty, ill-health, religious commitment or war which had made them turn to the Labour party. For both middle and working class women, the emotional connection to their political work was paramount, often to the extent that there was a strain of anti-intellectualism within the female section of the party.

Were Labour women married to the party as has been often claimed? These autobiographies suggest otherwise as they detail the friendships and the love affairs of these women. Many politically active women did remain unmarried but that did not mean that their emotional lives were barren. Nor did politically-active women have to conform to the stereotype of the dry, mannish spinster. The ‘stiff-collared’ Susan Lawrence cut a rather masculine figure but both Jennie Lee and Ellen Wilkinson were glamorous attractive women. Then, as now, much more attention was paid to the appearance of women than to the appearance of men.

Fiona Reid

Autobiographies of Labour women MPs - Select List

Edith Picton Turbervill (1872-1960): Life is Good, An Autobiography (1939)
Jennie Lee (1904-1988): Tomorrow is a New Day, (1939); This Great Journey, (1963); My Life with Nye, (1980)
Ellen Wilkinson (1891-1947): Myself When Young, ed. Margot Asquith (1938); Clash (1929)
Mary Agnes Hamilton (1882-1966): Remembering My Good Friends, (1944); Uphill All the Way, (1953)
Margaret Bondfield (1873-1953) : A Life’s Work (1948)
Edith Summerskill (1901-1980) : A Women’s World, Her Memoirs (1967)
Leah Manning (1886-1977) : A Life for Education: An Autobiography (1970)

March 6, 2010

History Division News
hisdivnews
is about »
» Refugees - whose responsibility?

History Workshop: Women and Refugees

University of Glamorgan, G.304 and G.305: Saturday 13 March 2010, 10.00-14.00

<image class="right" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/3/6/cohen.jpg" />

There have always been refugees but in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s there were some of the most monumental and severe refugee crises in the history of the world. Throughout the inter-war years democratic regimes collapsed and were replaced by authoritarian models in Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, France and many other countries. These regimes characterised many individuals and groups as ‘the enemy’, whether they were political opponents – such as the Spanish Republicans – or racially defined ‘others’ – such as German Jews. These were some of the first refugees of the long Second World War.

During the Second World War, there were vast, forced population movements, and more spontaneous movements as people fled from the fighting or from attempts at political persecution. By the end of the war displacement was clearly a tremendous problem and by the summer of 1945 approximately 7 million civilians were on the move in Western Europe. Some wanted to go home, some, especially those from Eastern Europe, were determined never to return.

What should be done with all these itinerant people? Who was responsible for them, and who should look after them? We will discuss the way in which key individuals and groups answered those questions. Susan Cohen will talk about the life and work of Eleanor Rathbone, an Independent MP who championed the rights of the refugees fleeing from Hitler’s Germany. Despite political and popular opposition she argued that they should be given a home in Britain. After the war, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was responsible for the care of a large number of refugees and displaced people. Sharif Gemie describes the role of UNRRA and Laure Humbert will talk about one woman’s experiences as an UNRRA worker. Alongside UNRRA there were numerous voluntary organisations, many of whom had a far wider remit for relief work. Fiona Reid will describe the work of the Friends’ Relief Service and will consider the extent to which the Friends offered a distinct approach to welfare work.

The morning will finish with a brief look at an UNNRA film, The Search, which will be introduced by Louise Rees. This will form the basis for a group discussion about the themes raised during the day.

This event is free and all are welcome. There will be an opportunity to buy Susan Cohen’s book, Rescue the Perishing. Eleanor Rathbone and the Refugees. (2010). Contact: freid1@glam.ac.uk for more information

January 19, 2010

History Division News
hisdivnews
is about »
» The History Society Presents ...

Fiona Reid

<image class="right" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/1/19/No_end_of_loavesa.jpg" height="275px" alt="shell shock illustration" width="275px">

Glamorgan University's new History Society has been a huge success: membership is growing and the Society has led the first of many expeditions, to the British Museum's Moctezuma Exhibition.

The next enterprise is a series of guest lectures, open to all staff and students of the university. Dr Fiona Reid of the Glamorgan History Division is the first speaker: she is on research sabbatical this year, but returns to Treforest to share her findings on war, medicine and society in the early twentieth century.

Admission is free and all are welcome to attend this lecture in G303 (Glynneath) at 17.00, 20th January 2010.

For more information about the History Society or about this event, please contact Pete Driscoll (08037582@glam.ac.uk), Secretary.

November 10, 2009

History Division News
hisdivnews
is about »
» From First Remembrance Day to Remembrance Today

<image title="The first remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph, as pictured in the Manchester Guardian" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/10/28/Guardian.jpg" alt="photograph of 1919 memorial service">

Fiona Reid talks to BBC History

Listen to Fiona Reid on BBC History Podcast

The armistice which ended the Great War came into effect at 11am on 11 November 1918, and ninety years ago Britain came to a standstill to honour the dead of the Great War. The first remembrance ceremonies were commemorative rather than triumphant: ‘Today is Peace Day’ announced the Manchester Guardian and a reporter for the Times described the ‘great awful Silence’ that descended on London at 11 o’clock on November 11 1919. During the war approximately 750,000 British servicemen had been killed and about 500,000 had been wounded. About 10% of the population had lost someone very close to them, for example a son, a brother or a husband, and many more had lost friends, acquaintances and more distant relatives.

King George V had suggested that people observe two minutes of respectful silence to mark the first anniversary of the armistice: people were asked to remain silent at 11 o’clock, to cease activity, to stand with bowed heads and to think of the fallen. Yet to unite the whole country in a moment of contemplation required some organisation, especially given that times were not fully standardized throughout the UK. The silence was announced by maroons or church bells and it was universally observed. Everything and everyone stopped: buses, trains, trams and factories halted; workers, students and pupils stood still. Court cases stopped, even the ships of the Royal Navy were stopped.

<image class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/10/28/poppies.jpg" alt="photo of poppies" />Other Remembrance Day traditions developed throughout the 1920s. In November 1920 the Unknown Warrior was buried in Westminster Abbey and over a million people visited it in its first week. There had long been a practice of wearing flowers to indicate a donation to charity and from 1921 artificial poppies were sold to raise money for wounded ex-servicemen. Now the Flanders poppy has become a uniform, universal symbol of memory but in the 1920s there were different types: expensive silk ones and cheaper cotton ones. The 1920s was also the period in which local war memorials were constructed. Over 5,000 of them had been built by 1920 and these were especially important given that so many men had died overseas. The French government gave permission for bodies to be exhumed from the Western Front and re-buried in family graveyards but British families were not allowed to do so and British war dead remained abroad.

Armistice Day was not always unifying. Often it provoked controversy. Wounded ex-servicemen sometimes protested at remembrance ceremonies – they were tired of the attention being paid to the dead when they were trying to live on inadequate pensions. During the mid to late 1920s bright young things held big parties on 11 November: after all that fighting it was just good to be alive. Later, in the 1930s, the Peace Pledge Union began to sell white poppies (symbols of pacifism) in contrast to what some saw as the more militaristic Flanders poppy.

During the Second World War, Armistice Day became less important and in the post-war years the 11 November commemorations were replaced by services held on Remembrance Sunday. As the First World War receded rapidly in popular memory it was widely assumed that it would be increasingly insignificant. Yet in the mid-1990s the British Legion effectively lobbied for a return of the two-minute silence and Armistice Day ceremonies became increasingly well-attended towards the end of the twentieth century. On 11 November 2009 there will be another significant turning point in the history of Armistice Day. Last year there were three Great War veterans at the Cenotaph but this year there will be none because the last veteran, Harry Patch, died in August.

Armistice Day is often presented as an unbroken tradition of patriotic remembrance. This is not the case. Over the years Armistice Day has provoked sorrow, anger, political protest, celebration and reverence. The ceremonies at the Cenotaph can be seen as overtly-militaristic yet Armistice Day also allows for the expression of pacifist sentiments. Do these official commemorations simply provide the space for a safe - and thus disempowered - pacifism? Or do they provide an opportunity for a broader discussion of war and its meaning?

<image class="right" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/10/28/WhitePoppy_copy.jpg" alt="photo of white poppy" />

Dr Fiona Reid discusses the history of Armistice Day in November’s BBC History Magazine

October 7, 2009

History Division News
hisdivnews
is about »
» The History Boys and the Bayonet

Investigating the Butcher Blade

<image class="left" title="Bayonet found in Abercynon" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/10/7/smallbayonet_copy_1.jpg" height="900" alt="Photo of Bayonet" width="150">

Imagine the scene: students moving into a shared house in Abercynon.

A van full of furniture, an empty house awaiting the house-warming party.

After much puffing and panting we get the furniture in and get ready to dash for the pub (Ian’s forgotten the milk and coffee, so the pub is the only answer).

Peter hands me a rusty piece of metal. “It’ll look good on wall above the fireplace“, he says.

When I get home I am amazed to find the object is a military bayonet.

Although I'm not an expert restorer I begin to clean off the rust and paint (someone had been using what later turned out to be a significant historical artefact to stir paint) to find a series of numbers and symbols etched into the blade and hilt.

The symbol was of a crown surmounted by an arc in which was written the word Wilhelm. Also clearly embossed on edge of the hilt was the letter P with the number 15.

The thing that stood out about this 18 inch Bayonet was the serrated or sawback edge to the weapon. Our research revealed that the symbol of the crown surmounted by the arched word Wilhelm represented Kaiser Wilhelm II. The number 15 related to its year of issue, 1915, and the letter P to Prussia, where a German Pioneer Regiment was raised. That in itself was worth recording.

But the most striking issue was the sawback edge on the blade of bayonet which extended approx 12-14 inches along what would normally be described as the blunt edge of the bayonet. Continued research established that it was in fact a “German Sawback Butcher Blade”. British and allied media spun great political propaganda from these weapons. They gave readers details of injuries allegedly inflicted with this weapon as proof of the levels of atrocity commited by the 'Bestial Hun'. There were unconfirmed reports of German prisoners who were caught in possession of this fearsome-looking weapon being summarily executed. |ndeed the great anti-war classic All Quiet on the Western Front includes a scene where two German soldiers discuss the risk of being executed on the spot by 'British Tommies' if caught in possession of the dreaded sawback blade.

Our research shows that the sawback blade was issued to only 6% of German troops and indeed, the sawback serration was intended to be used by pioneer corps NCOs for cutting fence poles and barbed wire etc. But such was the power of propaganda that German Command recalled all sawback bayonets and had their edges ground down in 1916. This helped us narrow down the date the blade was captured. Clearly it must have been captured before 1916 when these blades were recalled, but after 1915 when it was made.

Hopefully further research will help us establish in which battle or skirmish this bayonet was actually taken and identify its rightful owners. The bayonet itself has been verified by the National Army Museum as an authentic ‘sawback butcher blade’ used in the bloodiest of conflicts.

As good history boys, we started our research by contacting the leader of foundation history, Dr Andy Croll, who proved to be a mine of valuable information. He put us in contact with Dr Fiona Reid, Glamorgan History Division's expert on Word War One. She has since lent the ‘sawback butcher blade’ to a secondary school as a teaching aid.

For us, most importantly, as history students, it shows that history is all around us and historic puzzles appear in some of the most unlikely situations. Stay tuned to the History boys for sequels. You can find us on the facebook group site of Glamorgan University's History Society.

Gary Brady

April 27, 2009

History Division News
hisdivnews
is about »
» Study Day: Women, Work, and Memory

In Response to War: Women, Work, and Memory in the Twentieth Century

<image title="Women's Study Day" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/4/27/womens_study_group_edit.jpg" alt="Photograph of participants">

The South West and Wales Women’s History Network and the Outcast Europe research centre held a study day on Saturday 25 April. This day was also part of a wider initiative in which University of Glamorgan historians aim to develop broad discussions on war, violence and society.

Study days are an ideal opportunity to discuss new projects and to present work in progress. Gill Abousnnouga (University of Glamorgan, English) presented a multi-modal analysis of war memorials. This is one of the many areas in which inter-disciplinary research can be fruitful and we hope very much to hear more about this project in the future. Sharif Gemie (University of Glamorgan, History) discussed the work of UNRRA in the Displaced Person’s camps of post-Second World War Europe. We were also pleased to welcome colleagues from the universities of Cardiff and Swansea. Tracey Loughran, (University of Cardiff) who has done much work on First World War shell shock, spoke about gendered interpretations of hysteria; Helen Steele (University of Swansea) talked about her research into the everyday lives of women in National Socialist Austria.

We hope that these study days promote greater collaboration both within and between university departments. The Women’s History Network Annual conference will take place on Saturday 4 July at the University of Wales, Newport. See the South West and Wales Women's History Network for further details.

April 20, 2009

History Division News
hisdivnews
is about »
» Study Day Invitation, 25th April: Women, Work, and Memory

In response to War: Women, Work, and Memory in the Twentieth Century

<image class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/4/20/womenwarlogo1.jpg" alt="Photograph" />

The West of England and South Wales Women's History Network and Outcast Europe will host a study day on Saturday 25th April 2009 at the Treforest Campus of the University of Glamorgan, Rooms G305 and G304, from 10.30 till 3.00.

Speakers:

Gill Abousnnouga, (University of Glamorgan)
‘The representation of women in the war monument’ 

Sharif Gemie (University of Glamorgan)
‘Women, Welfare and Refugees: Displaced Persons and UNRRA (1944-48)’ 

Tracey Loughran (University of Cardiff),
‘The historiography of trauma and gender in the First World War’ 

Helen Steele (University of Swansea)
‘Daily Life in National Socialist Austria’  

Admission is free and all are welcome. Refreshments will be provided, but please bring a packed lunch. Click here for campus maps. For further information, contact Fiona Reid (freid1@glam.ac.uk), University of Glamorgan.