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Queen Mary History at war

A team of student researchers are winding the clock back 100 years to provide an insight into how the area around Queen Mary experienced the First World War

Eleven volunteers, overseen by the School of History’s Dr. Patrick Longson and Dr. Dan Todman, are contributing to QM’s East End at War project by posting regular updates online at eastendww1.org and on Twitter @EastEndWW1. The project aims to bring to life the hustle and bustle of wartime London, stimulate public debate during the centenary commemorations, contribute to historical understanding of the home front and reveal new insights into a formative period in world politics.

Regular blog posts reproduce newspaper reports – taken from local titles such as The East London Advertiser, The Hackney and Kingsland Gazette and The East End News – exactly a century after they were first published. Recent entries include a Guy Fawkes Ball, the call-up of omnibus drivers and protests against the early closing of Shoreditch pubs. One of the more unusual stories to have been re-discovered reveals that Madam Tussauds had acquired a German dispatch carriers collapsible bicycle to add to their collection of objects connected to the war.

The blog also includes the reflections of participating students. Sandip Kana, who had previously worked with Dr. Todman on the Exhibiting the First World War project, wrote: “The war is often studied and researched through a military lens, whereas local narratives of a community’s everyday experience of the war have come to be forgotten, or viewed as irrelevant. But projects such as this have begun to shed light on this forgotten part of the war, and can serve to only enrich our knowledge of the experience of the war at home.”

Maya Bhogal reflected the views of a number of contributors in remarking upon how her historical skills had been boosted by participating in the project. “When I first set out to participate in this project, I was motivated primarily by the notion that we would be given our own independence in doing archival research, something which surprisingly as a second year history student, I have had no contact with”, she said. “Not only have I now had experience within archives, but I’ve had the independence of finding articles that interest me and sharing them with others”.

The East End at War project is supported by the Hackney Archives and Tower Hamlets Local History Archive and Library. Both have provided training to contributors as well as access to their historical newspaper collections. The project will continue throughout the four-year long centenary commemorations and so there is plenty of time for new volunteers to become involved – all you need to do is send your name, year of study and an 80-word statement of interest to eastendww1@qmul.ac.uk.

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