New book examines the ‘hidden histories’ of minority groups in the First World War.

Posted on 9th February 2018

The experience of ethnic, religious and national minorities participating in, affected by, or living through the First World War is the subject of a new book edited by two history academics from the University of Chester.

Dr Tim Grady and Dr Hannah Ewence.
Dr Tim Grady and Dr Hannah Ewence.

Departing from existing narratives of the Great War, and presenting alternative ways of thinking about the conflict, Minorities and the First World War: From War to Peace examines the particular experiences of minority groups as members of the main belligerent powers: Britain, France, Germany and Russia. Individual chapters explore themes including internment, refugees, racial violence, genocide and disputed memories from 1914, through into the interwar years, to explore how minorities made the transition from war to peace at the end of the First World War.

The book has been co-edited by Dr Hannah Ewence, Senior Lecturer in History, and Dr Tim Grady, Reader in Modern History – both of whom are also lead academics on the Diverse Narratives project (https://diversenarratives.com). The Heritage Lottery funded project is designed to engage the people of Cheshire in researching and writing the history of the First World War, including the ‘hidden’ histories - the previously untold local stories - of minority groups in the region.

The book discusses so-called ‘friendly minorities’, considering the way in which Jews, Muslims and refugees lived through the war and its aftermath. Fears of ‘enemy aliens’, which prompted not only widespread internment, but also violence and genocide, are also explored. The book takes as its final theme the legacy of wartime, considering how the political representation of minorities and the remembrance of their contributions and sacrifices were debated during and beyond the interwar years. Bridging the gap between war and peace, this is the ideal book for all those interested in both First World War and minority histories.

Dr Hannah Ewence, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Chester, said: “This is both an important and timely contribution to the growing body of First World War research generated to coincide with the centenary period, but one which, by addressing the oft-neglected area of minority history, hopes to recover the lost voices of participants and civilians from a diverse array of backgrounds across the European continent.”

Dr Tim Grady, Reader in Modern History at the University of Chester, added: “It is important that we seize the opportunities of the First World War centenary. This is a moment not just to remember the sacrifices that millions of people made in the conflict, but also to remember other – often forgotten and far more complex – histories of the war.”

Minorities and the First World War, from War to Peace co-edited by Dr Hannah Ewence and Dr Tim Grady, and published by Palgrave Macmillan is available here:

http://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9781137539748