International Society for First World War Studies Conference 2018

Deakin is hosting the conference of the International Society for First World War Studies at Deakin Downtown from 9-11 July.  The theme of the conference is ‘Recording, Archiving and Narrating the First World War’.

We welcome delegates – registration details can be found here.

The conference dinner will be held on Tuesday 10 July at Higher Ground restaurant in the city, with an after dinner speech on ‘Avatars of the Great War’ by Professor Peter Stanley.

You can register for the delicious three course dinner with drinks here. All are welcome.

Please contact Carolyn Holbrook or Bart Ziino for details.

Keynote presentations will be given by Professor Joan Beaumont, Professor Michael Roper and Michael Piggott AM.



Keynote Address by Professor Michael Roper: ‘Afterlives of the Great War’

Monday 9 July, 2.30pm

As we reach the end of the centenary of the First World War, attention is turning to the history of the conflict since 1918. This talk reflects on my experience of studying the war’s impact on those who came after. It examines modes of transmitting the war through families, in oral histories and in objects preserved and redeployed over generations.
Drawing on examples from Australia, Britain and Germany, I will reflect on the issues involved in this kind of history, where the influence of the war is often indirect, and when beliefs about its personal impact are formed by a century of popular memory, commemoration (or its absence), and subsequent military conflicts. The accounts of descendants are shaped by profound national differences, and by the processes of ageing and retelling the past. And if the concept of inter-generational transmission has emphasised the war’s destructive effects on later generations, speaking with the children of servicemen also suggests that the domestic history of the First World War could be undramatic, mundane, or lead in fertile directions, spawning interests in technology, art, travel or music.
Such issues have led me to re-think my orientation to the history of afterlives. Rather than treating the accounts of descendants primarily as evidence of childhood and traumatic transmission, I have sought to discover the war’s significance in the photographs, trench art, letters, postcards and official records they hold, and their reasons for sharing their family’s history in an interview or commemorative project now. The history of afterlives, I am discovering, requires a distinctive approach to causality and methods. It must deal with indeterminacy and the range of influences that people might attribute to the war, from totalising aftermath to bit part. It must deal with the events, objects and experiences in family memory that are carried forward in time as well as later perceptions shaped by ageing and public memories.

Keynote Address by Michael Piggott, A: ‘Australian archives at the centenary: digital breakthrough or analogue stalemate?’

Tuesday 10 July, 9am

The paper will describe the archival state of play at the centenary, and survey collection building and access provisions to explain why developments occurred and what makes them distinctive. Particularly for delegates not completely familiar with the Australian archival arrangements, the central part played by the Australian War Memorial will be explained, and reasons as to why this has been a mixed blessing presented. Among the many other aspects to be canvassed will be gaps and processing backlogs in the archival record, the limited success of documenting by citizens, the coordination of collecting by national cultural institutions, and the recent campaign to save First World War repatriation files.


Keynote Address by Professor Joan Beaumont: ‘Writing the History of Indigenous Soldiers’

Wednesday 10 July 9am

One notable feature of the global memory ‘boom’ of the last three decades has been the recognition accorded to the role played by indigenous forces in the imperial armies that fought World War I. In Australia, this interest has generated a plethora of exhibitions and rituals, at both government and community levels, commemorating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians’ military service. It also inspired the generous funding of a major national research project, “Serving our Country”, which examined Indigenous service in the Australian defence forces across the 20th century. This paper will consider not only the findings of this research in relation to World War I; but also some of the broader historiographical issues that were raised by this project, positioned, as it was, at the intersection of Aboriginal history and military history. What have been the difficulties of ascertaining how many indigenous Australians served, and their motivation for volunteering to serve in World War I? How do understandings of the purpose of oral-history testimony differ? What are the obligations of historians to individuals and communities who continue to contend with the legacies of violence and colonialism? And how can we reconcile the tension between commemoration of military service in defence of the “nation”— the agent of dispossession and discrimination—and the concurrent aspiration that conflict between Indigenous Australians and white settlers (“frontier wars”) should also find a place in the pantheon of national memory?

Joan Beaumont is Professor Emerita at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at The Australian National University Canberra. Her most recent publication is the co-edited (with Allison Cadzow), Serving our country: Indigenous Australian, War, Defence and Citizenship (NewSouth Publishing 2018). She is author of the Broken Nation: Australians and the Great War (Allen & Unwin, 2013), joint winner of the 2014 winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award (Australian History), the 2014 NSW Premier’s Prize (Australian History), the 2014 Queensland Literary Award for History, and the Australian Society of Authors’ 2015 Asher Award.


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