That the British volunteers and conscripts of the First World War made up the largest civilian army in the nation’s history is widely appreciated. What is less well known is the scale of the communications infrastructure necessary to keep these “citizen soldiers” in touch with the home front. Between 1914 and 1918, the British Postal Service’s Home Depot in London handled 2 billion letters and 114 million parcels addressed to soldiers serving overseas. Many of these soldiers were spending the first substantial period of time in their lives away from loved ones. Large numbers found themselves writing to parents and siblings for the very first time, learning the art of letter writing as they did so. Others for the first time in their lives started keeping diaries and journals of their day-to-day experiences. The war thus represented a kind of portal through which citizen soldiers, regardless of social status, were introduced to habits of self-recording through manuscript that had previously been largely the province of the upper and middle classes. Using specific examples drawn from soldiers’ letters and diaries, this paper will ask what it was that was unique about the manuscript cultures of the First World War.
For any questions about this seminar, please contact Jonathan Gibson, Lecturer in English, The Open University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
NB by the way: 15 May is Conscientious Objectors’ Day
Postscript: A correspondent reports:
<< The records of COs compiled by Cyril Pearce are now online via the Imperial War Museum:
The website is an absolute *** atrocity.
One is obliged to register to see the individuals' records. Downloading the data appears to be impossible. Searching the data is clumsy at best; search by location doesn't work if you are not searching on a name as
well. Best results are got by using the 'keywords' search at the bottom left side. >>
Here, in preparation for Sunday's Newington Green walk, are search results for COs in Stoke Newington (probably many false positives):
If you have a name you can view and copy a transcription of the record, after signing up (free).
The Peace Pledge Union project on London COs now has an Exhibition up at Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham. Jennifer Bell will be giving a talk on Hornsey COs there at 7.30 pm on 27th May.
Friday, May 15, 2015
British Manuscript Cultures of the First World War
Next Monday (18 May) at 5.30 p.m., Edmund King (Open University) is giving a paper on 'British Manuscript Cultures of the First World War', part of the Open University/Institute of English Studies Book History and Bibliography Research Group seminar series at Senate House: details below. All are welcome: no registration required.
More on the series at:
18 May 2015 (Monday)
Room 104 (Senate House, Malet Street, London, first floor)
17:30 - 19:30
Edmund King (Open University)
'British Manuscript Cultures of the First World War'
Open University Book History and Bibliography Research Seminar