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August 8, 2011

History Division News
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» 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

July 31, 2011

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» Helsinki, Sweden

If you are invited to join a gathering of Swedish historians you expect to find yourself in Sweden. So why does my plane land in Helsinki? It’s not quite as strange as it seems. Two hundred and fifty years ago … Continue reading

October 8, 2010

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» ‘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.

March 15, 2010

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» History Cinema: "The Search"

Introduction and Screening: Thursday 18th March

<image src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/3/15/search.jpg" />

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

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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

<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

March 5, 2010

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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.

January 19, 2010

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» 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

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» 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

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» 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

October 2, 2009

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» The beginnings of a new society

<image class="left" title="Moctezuma Exhibition - British Museum" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/10/2/moctezumalink.jpg" alt="Moctezuma - British Museum" />

The History Society has been resurrected this year by a group of students who call themselves ‘The History Boys’; enthusiasts who enjoy any subject with historical significance. The society has taken off with an excellent response from the student body with applicants ranging across nearly all subjects that Glamorgan teaches.

The aim of the society is to go to the places where history is alive. Lectures and class work are all well and good, and in nearly all cases, very enjoyable. But we feel that history is something that should be ‘lived’ and experienced rather than just taught. It is this reason that has become the driving force behind our main goal… Field trips.

The first field trip of this year was organized almost immediately after the society’s inception with a trip to London scheduled on the 21st November 2009. Participants are free to do whatever they like in London, although the History Society has outlined a few places of special interest that directly relate to taught courses. An example of this is the Moctezuma exhibition in the British Museum, the Aztecs being an important subject in the first year Atlantic and the Making of the Modern World module.

Other places included the tower of London, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament to name a few. Needless to say that interest has been high. We have also made links and contacts within the Western Front Association and hope join them on a field trip to the First World War battlefields in Belgium and Northern France next year. One of the main mandates of the society is that the members choose what they would like to see, so it will not be long before more field trips are planned both for this year and for next.

The society is open to all students at Glamorgan with an interest in the past. Being a History student is not a prerequisite of membership, nor will it ever be. Anybody is free to join, participate and attend meetings, field trips and guest lectures. Anybody who is interested in joining can contact myself (Pete Driscoll – Society Secretary) on 08037582@glam.ac.uk or by joining our group page on Facebook.

Pete Driscoll