What Scholars Do Next: in light of the ‘What Tommy Did Next’ Symposium

FWW Network member Mike Hally, PhD doctoral candidate, Centre for the Study of Modern Conflict, University of Edinburgh, shares some insights after the recent ‘What Tommy Did Next’ symposium including his hopes for the FWW Network to ‘join-up’ researchers working on parallel areas of First World War history (but often in complete ignorance of one another):

It was impressive to see the commitment and enthusiasm of 30 speakers and another 35 attendees at our symposium ‘What Tommy Did Next – Veterans’ activities and organisations of the First World War in the UK and Beyond’, on Saturday 18th March in Edinburgh.  One illustration of that commitment, is that not one speaker had dropped out since we first published our programme, and only one single registered attendee didn’t turn up on the day (and with very good reason, which we were told about in advance).

As with other conferences in the last year or so, we were all struck by the range and diversity of original research being carried out on the FWW and its aftermath – but also by how much we didn’t know about this work, until we got people together.  It does seem that lots of people are carrying out fascinating new research, much of it based on new sources, yet often without knowing about others’ work in related fields.  And I certainly include my own studies into the origins of the veterans’ groups that preceded the British Legion.

So it was great that our event also saw the UK launch of the FWW Network, which is very much needed to start joining up all those research projects, and connecting all the people doing them.  After Jay Winter gave a characteristically deep and thought-provoking Keynote Address on ‘the Silences of the Men Who Served’, the stage was set for Oliver, Sarah, Philippa and David to set out the case for the Network, and what it hopes to achieve, plus the welcome news that, because it has AHRC funding, no-one will need to pay a membership fee!

By the end of the day it was very clear that most of the people there want to stay in contact, and the FWW Network will be the means by which that can be achieved.  I’m looking forward to that happening and continuing to grow the contacts initiated that day.  Perhaps an early task for the network will be to compile a searchable database of all these studies, the people working on them, keywords, related resources and so on?

A key aim of the FWW Network is certainly to try and connect such ECRs and PGRs working on the First World War. Therein we are currently looking at how to best us our website via a member’s section. We will certainly take on-board Mike’s suggestions of keywords and tags!


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