The 9th conference of the International Society of First World War Studies took place at the University of Oxford between 9th-11th November. The conference welcomed more than 80 academics from 11 different countries, who met at the Maison Française d’Oxford. Held at the midpoint of the First World War formal centenary period, this year’s ‘War Time’ conference theme aimed to encourage scholars to re-consider and reflect upon the way time has impacted and shaped conflict itself and subsequent scholarship.
ISFWWS conferences are based on an unusual yet very productive format, which aims to inspire wide-ranging academic discussion and provide junior researchers with an opportunity to present their work in an encouraging and stimulating environment. All 18 conference papers, which had been authored by PhD students and early-career researchers, were circulated amongst the participants in advance of the event. A senior academic in the field was invited to provide a commentary for each individual paper. The papers, which covered a variety of topics, were then paired up to create the following nine panels:
- Aerial Time
- Medical Time
- Soundscapes of Time
- Ideological Timelines
- Personal Memories and Experiences
- Materiality on the Home Front
- Discursive Time
Following a commentary, the author of the paper had an opportunity to respond. Afterwards, the floor was opened to discussion.
The conference was framed by keynote lectures from prominent historians Professor Sir Hew Strachan (University of St Andrews), Professor John Horne (Trinity College Dublin / University of Oxford), and Professor Margaret MacMillan (University of Oxford), in which they discussed the topics of time and strategic planning, time-frames, and moving from war to peace respectively. The keynotes, which were recorded by the University of Oxford’s recording team, will be available online shortly.
The conference organisers had the privilege of welcoming a number of distinguished scholars. OCLW’s Weinrebe Research Fellow in Life-writing, Dr. Kate Kennedy, was asked to serve as commentator for Ellen Davies’s paper, entitled “‘Mechanical Rhythms’: Music & Temporal Multiplicities in Pre-War Paris’”, on the Soundscapes of Time panel.
Furthermore, during the conference two separate prizes were announced and awarded. At the end of the first day the ‘WWI Research Competition’, open to all students and staff members of the University of Oxford who had original ideas for engaging and accessible research projects relating to the war, was awarded to Dr. Alice Kelly (Harmsworth Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute) for her podcast by The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH). The runner-up was JC Niala, an MSt Creative Writing student from Kellogg College for her podcast ‘African Soldiers in WWI: Forgotten in a global war’.
The Gail Braybon Prize for Best Postgraduate Paper, which the conference committee- with input from an ISFWWS representative- selected from amongst those conference papers whose authors do not already hold a doctorate, was announced during the concluding remarks. The winner was Assaf Mond of Tel Aviv University with his paper ‘‘‘It is at night-time that we notice most of the changes in our life caused by the war’: Zeppelins, Time and Space in Great War London”.
The conference proceedings were followed on 12th November by a public engagement day organised by Oxford’s Academic IT department, during which twenty conference delegates and organisers worked as part of the volunteer team helping to run a ‘Community Collection Day’ as part of the Europeana14-18 project.
Adam Luptak, Hanna Smyth, and Louis Halewood, War Time co-organisers, Globalising and Localising the Great War, University of Oxford.