The conference, entitled Perspectives on the Great War, included reflections on the tragic human cost of the conflict, and was designed to highlight the interdisciplinary and international nature of First World War scholarship.
In welcoming the delegates, the Principal Professor Simon Gaskell said: “Within our own university, and indeed within education more generally, there has always been an imperative to reflect upon the perspectives and lessons of war, not least the perspectives which carry over into the subsequent peace.”
The programme reflected the scale of the organisers’ ambition, with more than 100 presentations from global experts across a range of disciplines, including politics, languages, colonialism, art, and military history.
Commenting on the diverse agenda, Professor Felicity Rash, from the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film, said: “The range of issues discussed bears testimony to the War’s global reach, and the vast effect on human lives and physical landscapes. While all of us are acutely aware of the devastation wrought by this dark period in world history, it is our profound hope that our assembly will also serve as a landmark of scholarly collaboration, commemoration, and worldwide friendship.”
The Principal Professor Simon Gaskell with conference organiser Professor Felicity Rash
Elza Adamowicz, Professor Emerita of French Literature and Visual Culture in the Department of French, delivered the opening keynote lecture.
Commenting on her address, entitled ‘Art at War: the European Avant-Garde and World War One’, Professor Adamowicz said: “It explored not only the theme of war – art about war or art against war, but also experimentation with new forms – art at war with artistic tradition. It focused on the ways in which various avant-garde movements sought to translate and transpose wartime and post-war experiences.”
Keynote speaker Professor Elza Adamowicz
Professor Adamowicz’s lecture included a visual and descriptive overview of works by Expressionists, Cubists, and Futurists, and explored the production of Zurich and Berlin Dadaists.
The conference was organised as collaboration between the School of History, the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film, and the Centre for Anglo-German Cultural Relations, with assistance from conference partners, including the Leo Baeck Institute and the German Historical Institute in London, the Open University, and the German Department of University College London.
Attendees at the conference
Speaking at the conclusion of the conference, Dr Falco Pfalzgraf, co-organiser and Acting Deputy Director of QMUL’s Centre for Anglo-German Cultural Relations, said: “This truly international conference with participants from all over the world must be considered a great success: We have received lots of positive feedback, concerning not just the quality of the academic papers and talks, but also for the manner in which the conference was organised and delivered. The vast majority of participants also liked the cross-disciplinary approach, and the wide range of subject areas covered.”
The event marks the first in a series of academic, research and public engagement events that will take place at QMUL during the commemorative period, which runs to 2019.