British Ex-Service Students and the Rebuilding of Europe, 1919–1926

This project investigates the war generation’s entry into higher education by focusing on one particular aspect: their contribution to reconstructing Europe by forging links with students from other countries, including former enemy nations. The immediate post-war years saw a plethora of international student initiatives – from the humanitarian efforts of European Student Relief to an international federation for national student unions. British university students were actively involved in these ventures; indeed, the very foundation of the National Union of Students (NUS) in 1922 was partly aimed at strengthening international links. Even when not active in such organisations, many British students engaged in internationalism, for example by participating in study exchanges and travel schemes. Our project thus examines how young adults with direct experience of war experienced and fostered international dialogue and understanding.

The project is  based on archival research in Newcastle, Durham, Edinburgh, London and Coventry. It has been co-designed with the National Union of Students (NUS) and the North East branch of the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA). The project team consists of Daniel Laqua (Northumbria; principal investigator), Georgina Brewis (UCL; co-investigator), Sarah Hellawell (research associate), Mike Day (NUS) and Jude Murphy (WEA). The team members will organise a public event in Newcastle and hold a policy seminar at the NUS headquarters in London. Findings from the project will be disseminated via a journal article, blog posts and through the launch of a working-paper series (in collaboration with the NUS).