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Legacies of War: Culture and the Arts

Legacies of War at the University of Leeds is a First World War Centenary project for 2014-2018. The project will work with people and organisations in Leeds, the UK and internationally to explore the legacy of the First World War.

Led by Dr Claudia Sternberg, Culture and the Arts constitutes one of five strands of the University of Leeds Legacies of War hub. It aims to organise a number of events and activities that draw attention to the cultural and artistic legacies of the First World War and reach out to the people of Leeds, Yorkshire and beyond with a programme that is academically informed, accessible and entertaining.

It also provides a supportive environment for academic symposia and conferences as well as original research and practice-led explorations of matters relating to the First World War, its historical period and legacies. The strand encourages the engagement of researchers, writers, artists, media practitioners, groups and schools with University archives such as the Liddle Collection and the holdings of the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, and makes use of venues in Leeds on and off campus. The Culture and the Arts project team will work with and across the other Legacies of War strands, i.e. War and Medicine, Science and Technology, War and Resistance, Yorkshire and the Great War.

The objectives of the Culture and the Arts strand are

  • to show how the First World War relates to the present
  • to commission, exhibit, screen, perform and/or discuss new work
  • to find new ways of looking at canonical cultural productions of the War
  • to excavate neglected materials and engage with lesser known artefacts and/or intangible heritage
  • to consider the everyday life of men, women and families who had no stakes in the world of ‘Culture’ or who belonged to social groups not normally associated with the experience and legacies of World War One (the latter might include, for example, colonial troops and colonised civilians, children, travellers and other cultural and ethnic minorities)
  • to seek ways of engaging audiences from different constituencies
  • to record events and activities and create an open access digital resource for the future.

The strand operates on a local level with involvement of staff and students in the Faculties of Arts and of Performance, Visual Arts and Communication as well as various communities and cultural institutions. To acknowledge the fact that the First World War was an international conflict with global impact, but not the only event and development of significance in the early 20th century, the strand will also attempt to initiate and facilitate face-to-face and/or digital collaborations with stakeholders, archives and/or universities in the twin cities of Leeds:

  • Brno, Czech Republic (Czechoslovakian nationhood and independence was forged during the First World War)
  • Dortmund, Germany (this large industrial town in the Ruhr region was targeted by the Allies as a site of war production)
  • Durban, South Africa (South Africans fought with the Allies in Europe, the Middle East and in the German colonies in West and East Africa)
  • Hangzhou, China (in the Far East, Japan and Germany had special interests in Chinese territory, while many Chinese labourers risked their lives in war-torn Flanders)
  • Lille, France (occupied by Germany until liberated by the British in 1918)
  • Louisville, Kentucky/USA (home of the largest WW1 army training camp built in 1917)

Claudia Steinberg's research specifically focuses on the representation of the First World War on film and how the war has been remembered in different countries. As a member of the Legacies of War Centenary project, she also works with individuals, communities and cultural organisations on World War One-related events and activities.

For more information about Legacies of War, see the project website.