New podcast reflects on The Great War

The latest Big Idea Podcast looks at one of the great fault lines of world history - the First World War.

In the year marking the 100 years since it began, experts from the University look at its origins, how it affected the very fabric of our language, and how it is remembered.

The shot heard around the world

On a clear morning in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Habsburg throne, is assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, a Serb nationalist.

Received wisdom has told us that after this event and this date, 28 June 1914, war was inevitable. But was it as simple as that?

Dr David Kaufman, from the Centre for the Study of Modern Conflict and author of the Beginner’s Guide to the First World War, unpicks the origins of the First World War and questions some of the rhetoric being used around the centenary.

Giving voice to the unspeakable

For those who fought in the trenches of the Somme or Verdun, the experience was beyond any previous frames of reference. How, then, did the writers of the day describe previously unimaginable horrors?

Randall Stevenson, Professor of Twentieth-Century Literature, looks at the war’s effect on literature, why poetry emerged as its predominant art form, and the strain that it put on language itself.

The art of remembering

After the war finished in 1918, across Britain 40 thousand war memorials appeared. But in the simple lists of names, the way the First World War was remembered differed markedly from previous wars.

Professor Jolyon Mitchell, director of the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, explains what typifies the memorials to those killed in the Great War, how the war-time propaganda bled into their visual language, and questions their contemporary function.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea Podcast is a monthly show featuring academics discussing contemporary issues and sharing their research and expertise.

Previous shows have looked at Russian nationalism, explored human migration, and debated the plans for Scottish independence.

As well as being an accessible way for the public to hear about the University’s work, the Big Idea is also a forum for academics to meet colleagues from different parts of the institution, share ideas, and gain media training in a studio setting.

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You can listen to this podcast now using the player below.

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Related Links

The Centre for the Study of Modern Conflict

Study English Literature

Centre for Theology and Public Issues