Swansea students work on research project

Swansea University offers students a chance to gain experience working with staff through the Week of Work scheme.  In March this year, two undergraduate students began working with Dr Chris Millington on a research project concerning a member of the Free French, Hilaire Marteau, who settled in Liverpool after the war.  The project aims to reconstruct the wartime experience of Marteau from the diaries and notes that he left following his death as well as from interviews with his surviving family.  Students Charlotte Hills and Joe Robins transcribed these interviews during their Week of Work placement.  They describe below why they wanted to take part in the project.

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Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French

Charlotte Hills

My name is Charlotte Hills and I am a second year undergraduate history and politics student.  I have had an interest in Second World War history since I was young, and to a large extent this is what encouraged me to undertake a history degree. Having received an email about a unique opportunity with a lot of experience with a primary source, in the form of listening to and transcribing interviews, I decided to apply. As the position was open to undergraduates as well as postgraduates I was pleased but also surprised when I was asked to attend an interview. I drew upon my previous recent experience working in my local museum, describing and cataloguing Anglo-Saxon tools, when writing my application, and this demonstration of my attention to detail, along with my enthusiasm for the project helped me succeed in securing the placement.

Listening to the transcriptions is first and foremost the best part of the placement. It is very rare to have such a unique opportunity to listen to a first-person account of someone’s life. However, the transcriptions bring their own challenges: covering five minutes of an interview will take me roughly an hour which to keep a steady progress requires about six hours work each week. This can be tough to schedule with my other responsibilities, however, I am enjoying challenging my time management abilities. It can also be confusing when natural patterns of speech occur; such as, people interrupting each other, long pauses and changing topic halfway through a sentence. This is what is time consuming as I need to be sure each word I’m transcribing is accurate and this is especially hard when places and street names are used out of context. Nonetheless, it is easy to lose track of time listening to an interesting account of such a fascinating story. Based on my experience so far with the CRAM project, I would not hesitate to apply for something similar in the future as well as encouraging anyone else to do so.


De Gaulle’s appeal to the French to continue the war

Joe Robins

I am a second year and studying History. I wanted to try something different in an area which I had an interest. The Second World War is one of my favourite areas of history, and this project enabled me to delve into aspects of which I have never come across until now. It also provided something different to degree work which is a nice change.

As I study History this opportunity situated itself in that field but I have no other transcribing experience. This was in fact one of the reasons I wanted to apply to take part in this research project as it enabled me to gain experience rather than apply previous experiences. Other than this, due to the nature of my course and previous employment, sticking to deadlines and having an eye for detail are all applicable for this project.

Transcribing is a long process but I have felt what I am listening to to be quite interesting. It is very time consuming but nonetheless quite rewarding all the same. Difficulties arise in making sure my prose is readable and presentable, and also in listening to the individuals as to make it as accurate as possible. Certain phrases are hard to hear but you have to do your best to get around this and continue. We overcome this by highlighting hard-to-hear speech and handing over to another set of ears to gather their interpretation of it.

Peer support network helping defence researchers


The Defence Research Network held its inaugural informal seminar and networking event on Thursday 11 May at the University of Bristol. The Defence Research Network connects PhD and Early Career Researchers studying defence, security or the Armed Forces in relation to policy, strategy, culture, and society. Over 25 participants, representing 10 different institutions, had the opportunity to share an informal brief overview of their research whilst also contributing to the shaping of this new network. Group discussions explored the opportunities for a regional programme of networking events and a future conference in addition to exploring opportunities for sharing ideas and experiences online and peer support.


Reflecting on the event, Rachel Morgan from Swansea University said, “The DRN inauguration event was a fantastic opportunity for me to network with academics studying across a broad range of disciplines. I thoroughly enjoyed presenting my research project and listening to talks given by the other scholars”. Richard Fisher from Cranfield University also enjoyed the event saying that “it was really good value to meet like-minded people” and, “The breadth of defence research being conducted is outstanding and there’s so many opportunities for people to share and test ideas, co-operate and help forge relationships for the rest of their academic careers”.

Between face to face events, the Defence Research Network takes the form of an online forum which enables researchers to identify common research interests, share best practice as well as sharing information on upcoming events and publications. The network will also provide a space for sharing unpublished work, exploring particular ethical challenges, testing ideas, and informal peer review. Participant research interests include cybersecurity, counterinsurgency, the history of air power and the education of Armed Forces families. If you are interested in joining the network please contact us on defenceresearchnetwork@gmail.com or on Twitter (@DefenceResNet).

The Nuclear Threat in Britain, at Cardiff Public Uni

CRAM member Dr Christoph Laucht will be presenting at the Cardiff Public Uni event on Friday 29th March.  Dr Laucht’s paper is entitled, ‘The Nuclear Threat in Britain and the Politics of the Unknown during the Cold War’.


The venue is the Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff.  More information can be found here: http://sites.cardiff.ac.uk/events/view/public-uni-15/

Defence Research Network founded

A post from CRAM’s Allyson Edwards….

Recently, I have collaborated with PhD candidates from across the UK regarding the establishment of a research network dedicated to PhD and early career researchers studying defence, security or the Armed Forces in relation to policy, strategy, culture and society. As a group, we have identified that no such network currently exists and have met numerous times to discuss the opportunities this gap presents. During the meetings we have been able to establish a network, a set of aims and discover potential funding opportunities that will allow us to create a fully comprehensive networking platform for those completing their doctoral studies or within the formative years of their academic career. Whilst this organisation is for PhD candidates and early career researchers, we are hoping for the support of both established organisations and academics to ensure the success of our network.


The network is still in its early stages, however we invite you to follow us on twitter and keep up-to-date on future events that are already in the pipeline!

Twitter link: https://twitter.com/DefenceResNet

Cultural Property and Armed Conflicts

A blog post from CRAM’s Dr Nigel Pollard…

On Thursday 23rd February 2017, the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill 2016-2017 received the Royal Assent and so became an Act of Parliament. This was a big moment for me, as I’ve been part of lobbying efforts to achieve this for the last five years as a board member of the UK National Committee of Blue Shield. The key provision of the Act is that the UK will finally ratify the 1954 Hague Convention on the protection of cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and its two Protocols, of 1954 and 1999. ‘Cultural Property’ in this sense includes monuments, sites and buildings, museums, galleries , libraries, archives and their contents  ‘of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people’.

Blue Shield Vienna

The Blue Shield emblem, displayed on the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Military History Museum) in Vienna. (photo by Corine Wegener).

Damage to cultural property has been long-standing feature of wars and internal conflicts throughout history, and has been subject to considerable scrutiny in recent decades, through conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Mali, Libya, Egypt and the former Yugoslavia. This is the result of deliberate, ideologically motivated attacks on cultural property associated with other cultures and religions, accidental damage caused by insufficient care and respect for cultural property when conducting military operations, failure of occupying armed forces to safeguard cultural sites and property for which they are responsible, and looting of unprotected sites and collections in conflict zones for the illicit antiquities trade.


The Temple of Bel at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Palmyra in Syria, deliberately destroyed by Da’esh (the ‘Islamic State’) in 2015.

The UK, like the USA, didn’t ratify the original 1954 Hague Convention for political and military reasons associated with its Cold War context, and while the UK claimed to work within the spirit of the Convention (for example, at the time of the 2003 invasion of Iraq), it is the last country with extensive military involvements abroad to ratify it. Passing of the Act and ratification of the Convention will be important symbolic steps in demonstrating the UK’s commitment to the protection of cultural property as well as having practical implications. For example, violations of the Convention and its protocols will be recognised as offences in UK law, and legal sanctions relating to dealing in ‘unlawfully exported cultural property’ will be strengthened.  The UK is preparing an inventory of its own cultural property for the purposes of protection, and potentially some buildings may be marked with the Blue Shield emblem for protection, already in use in some countries such as Austria. Another requirement of the Convention is that the UK is establishing a special unit within the armed forces for the protection of cultural property, inevitably popularly dubbed the ‘New Monuments Men’ after the Anglo-American Allied Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Sub-Commission of the Second World War, popularised by the 2014 George Clooney film. In addition, the UK set up a £30 million Cultural Protection Fund to fund projects and initiatives in this field in 2016, after consultation with heritage specialists including myself.


A late Roman house at Sergilla, part of the UNESCO World Heritage site ‘Ancient Villages of Northern Syria’, damaged in the course of fighting in the Syrian civil war.

I became interested in this issue through my research relating to damage to archaeological sites such as Pompeii in the Second World War, and the history of the ‘Monuments Men’ organisation. For that reason I played a role in the re-establishment of the UK National Committee of Blue Shield in 2012. However, as an archaeologist, much of my past research and fieldwork related to Roman Syria, so the intensification of the civil war there involved me more and more in contemporary efforts to preserve heritage sites in conflict zones.  I’ve digitised many of my images of archaeological sites in Syria that have been damaged in the conflict as a contribution to their preservation for research and teaching.







News of two forthcoming papers…

Prof. John Foot of Bristol University will be speaking at the CRAM semimar on Thursday 30th March.  The paper is entitled, ‘Overturning the Asylum: Radical Psychiatry in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s.’  The venue will be Swansea University, Callaghan Building, Room B02/03 and the paper will begin at 5pm.


CRAM member Dr Christoph Laucht will be speaking at the School of Modern Languages, Cardiff University, on 15th March.  The paper begins at 1pm and is entitled, ‘Hollywood in Early Cold War Germany’.  The venue is MLANG room 0.42.



Overturning the Asylum: Radical Psychiatry in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s.

Prof. John Foot of Bristol University will be speaking at the CRAM semimar on Thursday 30th March.  The paper is entitled, ‘Overturning the Asylum: Radical Psychiatry in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s.’  The venue will be Swansea University, Callagahn Building, Room B02/03 and the paper will begin at 5pm. 

Militarism in Post-Soviet Russia: War, Identity and Culture, 1990-2000

In this post, Swansea University PhD student Allyson Edwards explains her research project…

Scholarship about militarism in the Soviet Union and Russia concentrates on the role of men in the armed forces, with minimal focus on how the military culture affected the family unit or the women within it. This is surprising, considering the extent to which the military shaped Russian culture, society, and political life. Whilst men were glorified for their role in the military, women were praised for their role as the mother and wife of those within the armed forces. During the final years of the Soviet Union and the early years of the Russian federation, there were cutbacks in the army. Whilst the man lost his role within the army, the woman maintained her role as the mother and wife.


In July, I was awarded funding by the DTC-ESRC studentship to explore ‘Militarism in Post-Soviet Russia: War, Identity and Culture, 1990-2000.’ My project aims to understand the gendered aspects of militarism, more specifically the extent to which militarism in post-Soviet Russian culture reinforced the patriarchal social structures and in what ways demilitarisation shaped the post-Soviet Russian family. To achieve this, the project focuses on the soldiers that were demilitarised throughout the Yeltsin regime. It will utilise the diaries and memoirs of former soldiers and their partners to identify the extent to which the military defined their identity, how societal perceptions of the military transformed aspects and characteristics of masculinity, and the implications of this process for Russian politics, society, and culture.

Call for Contributions: Twin Cities

Call for Contributions, from Dr Tom Allbeson and Dr Christoph Laucht

Special Issue: ‘Twin Cities – Reconstruction and Reconciliation after 1945’

We are seeking to publish a special issue on the topic of twin cities in the postwar period. We made initial contact with Urban History, which would be our preferred journal for this research.

Deadline for Abstracts: 20 January 2017

Twinships between cities have long played an important role in transnational relations, taking different forms that include school exchange programmes, economic links, sports competitions or cultural events such as theatre performances, food festivals or Christmas markets. Shortly after the end of the Second World War, cities in the former enemy nations contributed to an emerging process of reconciliation by forging ties between municipalities in Germany, Italy and Japan and their British, French and American counterparts. During the Cold War, cities from across the two blocs formed partnerships in an attempt to further the understanding between East and West. And in organizations such as International Cities for Peace or Mayors for Peace city officials engaged in peace campaigning.

Yet, twin cities have so far received relatively little interest from urban historians. While there have been some studies of particular twin cities such as Dresden and Coventry or Birmingham and Frankfurt or partnerships between cities in divided Germany during the Cold War, no broader conceptual attempt has yet been made to explore the place and significance of twin cities in urban history, the ways in which these partnerships manifested themselves socially and culturally, and the relation between the reconstruction of devastated urban centres and postwar reconciliation after 1945.

The proposed special issue on ‘Twin Cities: Reconstruction and Reconciliation after 1945’, thus, sets out to shed more light on this pivotal, yet neglected area of urban history. Through a set of case studies, it seeks to explore different facets and varieties of partnerships between cities with particular reference to the process of reconciliation that occurred during the postwar reconstruction of cities after 1945. We invite contributors to address a range of questions and areas relevant to twin cities, including: in what ways did the postwar construction of international city partnerships relate to the postwar reconstruction of urban centres? To what extent did relations between twin cities reflect larger trends in international relations? How did partnerships between cities in Germany, Italy and Japan, on the one hand, and urbanities in Britain, France and the United States, on the other, shape the agendas and serve the purposes of reconciliation between former foes? What role have twin cities played in the memorialization of the Second World Wars? How did municipal officials and civil servants organize themselves nationally and transnationally to form networks campaigning for peace and reconciliation? What were the most successful foundations (e.g. economic, social, cultural, educational) of twin city partnerships?

Submission Details:

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words and full contact details to both Dr Tom Allbeson (t.j.allbeson@swansea.ac.uk) and Dr Christoph Laucht (c.laucht@swansea.ac.uk) by 20 January 2017. We aim to invite approximately 7 contributors to submit original research articles of 8,000 words in January 2018. These will be subject to the journal’s peer review process.

Guest Editors:

Dr Tom Allbeson,

Lecturer in Modern History, Department of History, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP

Email: t.j.allbeson@swansea.ac.uk

Dr Christoph Laucht, FRHistS, FHEA

Senior Lecturer in Modern History, Department of History, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP

Email: c.laucht@swansea.ac.uk




Online Exhibition: “Making War, Mapping Europe: Militarized Cultural Encounters, 1792–1920”

While the HERA project “Making War, Mapping Europe” (MWME) – in which CRAM member Dr Leighton James is involved – is approaching a conclusion, a central aspect of the collaborative research project’s output will continue to be available to scholars and the broader public alike: its online exhibition. This exhibition employs a wide array of objects and essays to explore intercultural contact within military contexts and can be found under this link:


In six thematic sections, the exhibition “Making War, Mapping Europe” portrays cultural contacts among soldiers from France, England, and Germany who were stationed at the periphery of Europe and in the Middle East during the “long 19th century.” The exhibition was conceptualized for both an academic audience and interested laypeople. Visitors here receive a visual impression of the presence of Napoleonic soldiers in Egypt, Italy, and Russia, as well as German military members’ encounters with the Ottoman Empire and the Balkan region during the First World War. Two further sections of the exhibition are dedicated to Bavarian soldiers in Greece in the 19th century and the British soldiers in Egypt from the 1880’s up to the end of the Great War.


These encounters are evidenced by the array of objects available for view in the exhibition: photographs, works of art, souvenirs, and various daily objects that have survived. Among these objects is a German steel helmet, specifically designed to enable Muslim soldiers to touch their forehead to the ground during ritual prayer, and a braid of hair that a Napoleonic officer, who had landed in Russian war captivity, had kept in memory of his Russian girlfriend. These objects and hundreds of other pictures and artifacts in the exhibition illustrate how military operations and expeditions ultimately functioned as catalysts for various forms of intercultural encounter. Their subject matter and greater implications cover a great spectrum ranging from questions of violence and gender, to knowledge transfer, and finally to the culture of memory surrounding these events.

Artifacts were collected with the support of many museums, archives, and private persons. The historians and art historians from the collaborative research project embedded them in the historical context. General thematic essays then augment the exhibition and simultaneously present the initial research findings of the three year project.

The online exhibition arose within the framework of the HERA-funded international research project ‘Making War, Mapping Europe,’ which is led by Professor Dr. Oliver Janz at the Freie Universität Berlin, and which is supported by its members at the Trinity College Dublin and the British universities of Swansea and York.