Aims and Scope
Oxford possesses an extraordinary concentration of scholars with interests both in the First World War and in global history. Many of the conferences and much of the research activity which will emerge from the commemoration of the centenary will be subject to one or more of three limitations. First, this activity will happen just because of the centenary not because it aims to say anything new. Second, many approaches will be bound to national agendas, and thereby miss the opportunity for the development of comparative and transnational themes. Finally, the overwhelming concentration on the immediate events of the War on the Western Front will not address the impact and consequences of the conflict in a wider chronological or geographical framework. As a recent report, based upon a YouGov survey, by the British Council has established, the level of public knowledge (in Britain as elsewhere) of the global nature of the War and its consequences after 1918 is startlingly poor. There is no reason to think that the commemorative and public remembrance activities that will take place over the next four years will significantly challenge or elucidate our understandings of what it is precisely that we are marking and recalling.
‘Globalising and Localising the Great War’ aims to transcend these limitations. It seeks to create a thriving community of research students at Oxford who study the War in a global rather than merely European context, and whose chronological focus is not confined to the period 1914-18. By creating a number of funded doctoral scholarships over the course of the centenary this initiative reflects the determination at Oxford to ensure that the years 2014-18 are marked by ground-breaking research and fresh insights by a new generation of scholars, who study the phenomenon of war in all its diversity and complexity.
We recognise that ‘globalisation’ is, in many respects, a questionable term. The theme is nonetheless helpful in considering the world both before 1914 and after 1918. Before 1914 international trade flourished, and its patterns were sustained by a financial system which rested on the gold standard and by a London-based insurance system. After 1918 the peacemakers at Versailles aspired to create a new global order, whilst the victorious powers themselves tried to recreate the old economic order through re-imposing the gold standard. At another level the War undermined globalism by fuelling nationalism, a force which sustained the war effort of many powers, and which both Woodrow Wilson and the peacemakers had to acknowledge in order to fashion a durable and workable post-war system. If, on the one hand, nationalism worked against global order, on the other it also generated imitative, transnational responses. The War itself similarly tightened relations between the imperial powers and their colonies, whilst simultaneously loosening them. Hence the title of the project seeks to encapsulate both trends, and to draw attention to the tensions between them.
The model for the project is that of a hub, with spokes exploring specific but interrelated and comparable themes which have all too often been neglected in the existing scholarship. Each research cluster is interdisciplinary, thereby encouraging a dialogue between history and law, philosophy (ethics), economics, theology, literary studies and international relations. More details of the rationale and scope of each cluster can be found by clicking on the following links: