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March 15, 2010

History Division News
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» History Cinema: "The Search"

Introduction and Screening: Thursday 18th March

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By the end of World War II, Europe faced a refugee crisis involving seven million people. This was a major challenge for the allied victors. Their response can be reconstructed through the memoirs and official records, but what can historians learn from the way their work shown to the wider public?</>

‘The Search’ (1948) is a unique example of a film concerning post-war refugees. Filmed on location in still war-devastated Germany, it depicts relief workers, American soldiers and Displaced Persons. Some of its child actors came from refugee camps, and the film was made with cooperation from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), one of the subjects of Glamorgan's Outcast Europe research project. But 'The Search' was not just an obscure docudrama; it was a box-office success, a classic Hollywood film which triumphed at the Oscars.

Sharif Gemie invites all students and staff to a screening of "The Search" on Thursday 18th March 2010, 5.00-7.00pm, Room J132.

Contact sgemie@glam.ac.uk for further details.




March 6, 2010

History Division News
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» Refugees - whose responsibility?

History Workshop: Women and Refugees

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

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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

March 5, 2010

History Division News
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» History Cinema: "Waltz with Bashir"

The Israeli "Apocalypse Now"

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Introduction and Screening: Tuesday 9th March

In 1982, Israel launched "Operation Peace for Galilee" and invaded the Lebanon. There followed one of the worst atrocities of the Arab-Israeli conflict: the massacre of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men, women and children at the Shateela Refugee Camp.

How did the massacre happen? Who should be blamed? For historians, these are difficult, controversial questions about a event with continuing repercussions, and still in living memory. For Israeli soldiers who fought in the Lebanon, finding answers must surely be more straightforward? Ari Folman, director of "Waltz with Bashir", suggests not. He uses powerfully animated sequences of nightmares and fantasies, amnesia and confusion, to reconstruct his and his generation's experience of a campaign fought and forgotten.

Sharif Gemie, Glamorgan's expert on refugee history and the history of the Middle East, invites all students and staff to a screening of "Waltz with Bashir" on Tuesday 9th March 2010, 4.30-6.30, Room H126. Contact sgemie@glam.ac.uk for further details.

October 7, 2009

History Division News
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» The History Boys and the Bayonet

Investigating the Butcher Blade

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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

October 5, 2009

History Division News
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» Historian visits Cursed Earth

Brian Ireland writes for 2000AD

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Dr. Brian Ireland has written a short article for 2000AD about the epic Judge Dredd story 'The Cursed Earth'. Brian is writing a book about movement and mobility in the United States, and is particularly interested in the road genre in cinema, literature and music. In this short article, Brian discusses the Cursed Earth story in the context of road genre films and novels, and focuses on the recurring plot theme contrasting urban and rural America -- the city versus the frontier motif. The article is scheduled to appear in 2000AD Prog 1659 (on sale 28 October).

A longer academic article by Brian, entitled 'Errand into the Wilderness: The Cursed Earth as Apocalyptic Road Narrative', has been accepted for publication by the Journal of American Studies (Cambridge).

September 28, 2009

History Division News
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» Politics of Memory in Germany

Remembering Ernst Thälmann: Antifascist or Stalin’s Henchman?

<image title="Ernst Thälmann Monument in Halle, Saxony. Source: Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive), Bild 183-71968-0001, licenced according to http://tiny.cc/kWMwb" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/9/28/ThaelmannHalle1960.jpg" alt="Ernst Thaelmann Monument in Halle, Saxony" />

The politics of memory may not have been an explicit theme in Sunday’s German elections. But for the Brandenburg village of Borkwalde, like the rest of the former communist east, the nationwide success of the post-communist Left Party (Die Linke) ensures that the topic will not go away.

Glamorgan’s Norry LaPorte is the author of a forthcoming biography of the leader of the German Communist Party in the 1920s and early 1930s, Ernst Thälmann. He was invited by the Left Party to give his views on the vexed question of whether German communists had been the nation’s foremost antifascists or anti-democratic Stalinists. The question had a concrete local basis. Borkwalde's memorial to Ernst Thälmann is protected under the terms of German reunification, but offers no information about his life. Should a plaque be added so that visitors can find out more about Thälmann, and if so, what should it say?

To the villagers who grew up in the communist East, this seemed a straightforward issue. In the former German Democratic Republic, they had learned that Ernst Thälmann had fought against the rise of Hitler and, rather than renounce his beliefs, had been executed on Hitler’s orders in autumn 1944 – as the Red Army advanced toward Berlin. The film shown at the beginning of the discussion – Ernst Thälmann: Leader of his Class (1955) – seemed to validate their view.

There was just one – crucial – issue. Their new neighbours, who had moved into Borkwalde from West Germany since reunification, did not share their political memory. In the old, cold-war West Germany, Thälmann symbolised the Stalinisation of the interwar communist party and the Soviet occupation of eastern Germany. They looked to another historical construction – or ‘collective memory’ – of the German past. When they spoke of Hitler's opponents, they, emphasised the quiet dissent of politicians like Konrad Adenauer, who retreated from public life during the Third Reich and returned to politics after the war as a champion of German democracy. Or they remembered the July Bomb Plot and the resistance of army officers like Claus Stauffenberg who attempted to kill Hitler and break with Nazism as the war turned against Germany.

To use an old metaphor, Glamorgan’s communism expert was on the horns of a dilemma and the bull it was attached to was charging towards him! There was only one possible answer – the ‘truth’. Neither version of the past was true. Both were the sort of ‘myths’ that all states use to forge collective identities and foster patriotism. I had to tell them that the unloved Weimar Republic was desperately short of democrats.

But, to ensure the full ‘truth’ be told – and to ensure the dilemma could run past without causing too much damage – they were reminded that Germany today is one of the world's most successful democracies.

April 5, 2009

History Division News
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» Schools Event - AS-Level History Conference

Succeeding at History AS-Level, 2nd April 2009

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Over forty students and teachers from schools in South Wales attended Glamorgan's AS-Level History Conference on 2nd April. The conference was designed to support school pupils in their exam preparation while offering them a taste of university life.

The event opened with a presentation on the AS History exam from Caryl James, WJEC Principal Examiner in History. Glamorgan historians then delivered lectures on popular elements of the AS-Level curriculum. Norry Laporte discussed with pupils how they might construct an argument to explain the Nazi party's rise to power. Gareth Williams spoke about the development of liberalism and its place in Welsh culture in the early twentieth century, challenging students to consider why certain attributes came to be considered particularly Welsh.

Moving beyond the AS-Level curriculum, Brian Ireland explained to pupils and teachers how he has used film in teaching and studying history. Chris Evans spoke about the breadth of university history, and the opportunities for students taking a history degree to choose and investigate subjects for themselves.

Teachers and pupils reported that the day had been extremely enjoyable and had helped significantly with their exam work. We wish all of our visitors the best of luck in the exams.

Glamorgan's History Division organises a number of free schools events yearly. We expect to hold our next schools conference in summer 2009. To sign up for regular updates on our school events and resources, please e-mail Jane Finucane (jfinucan@glam.ac.uk)

March 18, 2009

History Division News
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» Schools Conference: AS History

AS History Conference, 2nd April 2009

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The History Division is offering teachers and students working on AS-Level History the opportunity to spend a day at our Trefforest campus on Thursday 2nd April.

Our AS History Conference will feature seminars from Glamorgan's historians on popular aspects of the curriculum, including twentieth-century Wales (Professor Gareth Williams), the rise of the Nazis (Dr Norry Laporte) and the Great Rebellion (Dr Jonathan Durrant). Dr Brian Ireland will discuss how historians can use film, and students will be introduced to historical research methods and options for studying history at university.

Attendance is free but places are limited and must be booked by schools in advance through our Schools and Colleges Liaison Department. For more information about the Conference and to request a copy of the timetable for the event please contact Sarah Watkins on 01443 483375 , e-mail Sarah Watkins.

February 26, 2009

History Division News
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» News from the Classroom ... out and about at the Tate Modern

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Third Year Option: 'From the Second Reich to the Nazis:
Culture, Art and Politics in Germany, 1890-1933'

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The years immediately after the First World War are often shrouded in gloom and depression: war was followed by economic strife, deep misery, the rise of the radical right and then more war. There is some truth in this miserable chronology but, like all chronologies, it obscures another truth. For artists, sculptors, architects, film-makers and designers of all sorts, the 1920s were most exhilarating and productive. Revolution in Russia and Germany had been accompanied by great artistic innovation, and the new regimes encouraged artistic experiment.

Many artists were eager to help shape the new world. After the horrors of the First World War and the trauma of revolution many were deeply committed to making a world that was completely different to anything that had ever existed before. Alexander Rodchenko, and Liubov Popova were two of the most influential and prominent members of the Russian avant-garde. Rodchenko was a painter, photographer, sculptor and designer; Popova was an artist and designer. They both rejected the idea that art was the simple representation of reality and – like many artists of the time – saw their work as intrinsic to their politics.

Last week, final year history students on Fiona Reid's 'Culture, Art and Politics' module went to the Tate modern to see an exhibition of Rodchenko and Popova’s work. There were fantastic examples of early abstract compositions: pure colour and pure line. We also had a glimpse into the everyday life of early Soviet Russia. Popova produced designs for peasant women’s headscarves, Rodchenko designed the poster for Eisentein’s famous Battleship Potemkin. Given their political commitment, the artists had no qualms about producing adverts for the new Soviet state. So we saw pictures of Moscow department stores during the New Economic Policy and we saw how Soviet citizens were encouraged to eat ‘Red October cookies’. We could even sit in the chairs that Rodchenko created for his ‘Workers’ club’, one of the Soviet exhibits at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in the summer of 1925.

Powerpoint is brilliant but there is really no substitute for seeing actual works of art. Only then can you gauge size, texture, colour and depth –as well as the indefinable thrill of seeing the original work.

This trip was only possible because the university agreed to subsidise it to a great extent. We would like to thank those responsible.

Thanks also go to John Arnold (Final year History student) for taking the photographs.

Dr Fiona Reid

January 14, 2009

History Division News
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» Workshop Invitation: Film and War

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Film and War - Saturday 17th January

Sharif Gemie has organised a workshop on the subject of 'Film and War' for Saturday January 17th. Speakers include three of Glamorgan's historians: Brian Ireland, Jonathan Durrant, and Laure Humbert, as well as Liz Jones (CCI) and Anindya Raychaudhuri (Cardiff). Richard Hand (CCI) will give the keynote address.

All welcome - no registration fee.


Saturday, 17 January J.132, University of Glamorgan

10.00: Registration; coffee; testing of technical equipment
10.45 – 11.10: Richard Hand, ‘Film and History’
11.10 – 11.25: Discussion

11.25 – 11.35 Break

11.35 – 12.45: Hollywood at War
11.35 – 12.00: Brian Ireland, Big Jim McClain (1952): How John Wayne Saved Hawaii from the Communist Menace
12.00 – 12.25: Liz Jones, Casablanca
12.25 – 12.45: Discussion

12.45 – 1.45: Lunch

1.45 – 2.10: Jonathan Durrant, “What was the Second World War fought for? The nationalist perspective of post-war British film-makers”.
2.10 – 2.25: Discussion

2.25 – 2.50: Coffee

2.50 – 4.00: Film and Politics
2.50 – 3.15: Laure Humbert, French Colonial Film
3.15 – 3.40: Anindya Raychaudhuri, Spanish Earth
3.40 – 4.00: Discussion