Research Project

Reflections on the Centenary: Learning and Legacies for the future

Principal Investigator
Professor Lucy Noakes

This research project, Reflections on the Centenary: Learning and Legacies for the Future, is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2017-2020).

Professor Lucy Noakes is the Principal Investigator on this major project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Working with colleagues at the Universities of Exeter, Glasgow and Kent, and with Dr James Wallis,  a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of History at Essex, Professor Noakes is investigating the impact and legacies of a range of projects which took place between 2014 and 2018 to commemorate the centenary of the First World War in Britain.

There have been hundreds of commemorative activities and events in Britain, ranging from the national and international, such as events to mark significant moments like the declaration of war (Lights Out, 2014) and the Battle of the Somme Centenary (We’re Here Because We’re Here, 2016) and popular artworks, installations and events, most notably Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London in 2014. Around the country local history groups, school children, arts groups, museums and many others have come together to research, explore and publicise some of the hitherto ‘hidden’ local histories of the war years.

The Reflections project asks a range of questions with resonance beyond the centenary commemorations: How have the new projects and new areas of research that have been created shaped our knowledge of the war years? Are there wider legacies of this widespread engagement with the centenary that we need to reflect on and learn from? Have people developed new skills based on their involvement in centenary activities and commemorative events? Will the legacies of the centenary, as well as the legacies of the war, shape people’s lives in future decades?

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Research outputs



June 2021: Reflections on the Centenary of the First World War: Learning and Legacies for the Future

How did community and academic researchers come together to work on public heritage and public history projects over the course of the First World War centenary? This Report examines this wider question through a focus on the five university-based First World War Engagement Centres that were funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to develop partnerships with community researchers over the course of the ‘long centenary’ (2014-2019).

This Report is the first major outcome of this research project and was co-authored by Professor Lucy Noakes University of Essex, Dr Emma Hanna, University of Kent, Professor Lorna Hughes, University of Glasgow, Professor Catriona Pennell, University of Exeter and Dr James Wallis, University of Essex and Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The First World War centenary saw large-scale interest and participation among the wider public. The creation and structure of the First World War Engagement Centres, established at the start of 2014, is outlined in Section One. The Engagement Centres funded a range of co-produced projects that brought community and academic researchers together. These projects are discussed in more detail in Section Two, while the range of other activities undertaken by the Engagement Centres is discussed in Section Four. Many First World War heritage projects were funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (now National Lottery Heritage Fund), and a number of these worked with the First World War Engagement Centres. A detailed study of some of these partnerships can be found in Section Three of this report.

Many of the projects that we examine produced websites and other digital legacies (for example, photos, digitized objects and documents, blog posts, recordings) that showcased their research. These outputs, and the vexed question of their preservation, are discussed in Section Five of this Report.

Student in Square 4 circa 1972
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