Students Staff

22 July 2014

Essex academic joining major BBC debate on the psychological impact of World War One

Professor Michael Roper from Department of Sociology at the University of Essex will take part next week in a major public debate on the psychological impact of World War One being recorded and broadcast by the BBC World Service.

The BBC Debate: The War That Changed The World – The Psychology Of War is part of a series of debates around the world launched in June to investigate the lasting legacy of World War One on the world we live in today.

A partnership with the British Council, the series will feature nine debates from different countries. The first was held in Bosnia and the final debate will be hosted by Jordan in June 2015, with the series visiting Germany, the UK, Turkey, India, Russia, France, East Africa, and the USA.

Professor Roper will be taking part in the London debate being staged at the Imperial War Museum (IWM London) on Wednesday 30 July and being broadcast on Saturday 2 August.

Professor Roper said: “I am delighted to be taking part in the programme, talking about the war's impact on families - in the Imperial War Museum's new gallery, and on the eve of the centenary.”

The discussion chaired by Professor Amanda Vickery and also including historian Dr Dan Todman from Queen Mary, University of London will investigate the ‘state of mind’ of World War One - the mind set of those who set off to fight the war and how that mentality changed.

The debate will ask: what drove men to volunteer for the war? What drove them to the edge of insanity when they got there? The panel will also explore ‘war lust’, comradeship, pitiful tragedy, and how a society picks itself up – or fails to pick itself up - after years of grinding battle.

The centrepiece of the debate will be a specially commissioned essay on shellshock and the shock of shells by cultural historian Joanna Bourke.

In the live audience at IWM London, part of Imperial War Museums, children of World War One veterans will join the general public in debate sharing their rare insight.

The War that Changed the World: The Psychology of War will be the first public event at the newly refurbished IWM London - which was the Royal Bethlehem Hospital for the mentally ill during World War One.

Professor Roper has undertaken extensive research into the psychological impact of World War One including the impact of letters and parcels from family to support the emotional survival of soldiers. He has also looked at the integration of domestic habits into trench life as part of soldiers’ efforts to cope during the conflict.

He is now researching the experiences of growing up in the aftermath of war between 1918 and 1939 as part of a British Academy funded project. This was a generation which had no direct experience of war as children, but whose parents often carried war’s traces in their memories and bodies.

The project focuses on three aspects of the war’s legacy on children including oral history interviews with the children of First World War soldiers and an investigation into how ‘experts’ in child psychology, psychoanalysis and child guidance perceived the war’s effects on children.

Professor Roper is working with Dr Rachel Duffett in the Department Sociology at Essex to investigate the war’s legacy in interwar children’s’ culture, particularly through toys.

Professor Roper and Dr Duffett are also part of the ‘Everyday Lives in War’ World War One Engagement Centre part of a network established by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund. The new centre sees Professor Roper and Dr Duffett joining colleagues from the universities of Hertfordshire and Northampton to focus on supporting community research exploring World War One and its legacy.

...more news releases