Spiritualist Communities & Wartime Afterlives on the Home Front


This project is investigating two types of afterlives in the First World War; the emotional aftermath suffered by communities on the home front, and the role of spiritualism in that context. The project is based on a collaboration between academics and students from the University of Portsmouth and members of the Portsmouth’s Temple of Spiritualism, the city’s largest spiritualist congregation. Through a series of collaborative workshops and an information crowd sourcing event the project seeks to uncover contentious but under-represented histories that have been concealed by historians’ reading of wartime spiritualism as a knee-jerk response to the loss of loved ones. It will explore the National Spiritualist Union’s opposition to the war, its debate over supporting conscientious objectors, tensions between authorities who viewed mediums as a potential threat to morale, and spiritualists who resented defamatory press commentary. The spiritualist community’s perspective will be examined at national and local levels, drawing upon spiritualist publications such as Light, and archival material held in the Portsmouth temple. In doing so, the project seeks to recover the marginalised, disregarded voice of the spiritualist community in the emotional history of the home front. This project aims to make an important contribution to our understanding of the tensions and dissent that existed beneath the surface of everyday lives, thereby problematizing the familiar wartime rhetoric of a ‘stiff upper lip’. At the same time, supposed communication between the living and dead offers an innovative perspective on connected communities in wartime.