The Great War: British Memory, History and Culture - HI6029

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn and Spring 6 60 (30) DR P Donaldson checkmark-circle


The aim of this course will be to show how far the Great War has infiltrated into modern culture and to test the validity of Paul Fussell's thesis that the Great War created Britain's modern cultural atmosphere. Fussell contends that modern society is marked by a love of irony, paradox and contradiction formed by the experience of the Western Front. Against this theory we will set the ideas of Samuel Hynes and Martin Stephen, as argued in their works, A War Imagined and The Price of Pity. This course will explore how the Great War has influenced our lives and why we have certain images of it. Why, for example, do most people associate the Great War with words such as 'waste', 'futility' and 'disillusion'? Why does the morality of the Great War seem so tarnished, while the Second World War is conceived as a just war? The course will be based upon literature (high and popular), poetry, art, architecture and film. We will therefore be 'reading' a 'primary text' each week. The course will serve to highlight many of themes of the 19th and 20th century British survey courses and will further contextualise the course on Britain and the Home Front in the Second World War.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

3 hours per week across the Autumn and Spring terms.

Subjects and themes:

'Voices Prophesying War'
'Somme Myths'
Mythologising the War
Heroes: Biggles to Lawrence of Arabia
The Imperial Experience: building nations
War memorials and Armistice Day
Refighting the War: the 1960s
The modern flood: from Susan Hill to Sebastian Faulks
First Reactions to the War
'Passchendaele Myths'
The Private Soldier at War
'Alternative' texts
The middlebrow approach: Journey's End
Painting the Great War
Contemporary truths: using the War in the 20s and 30s
Televising the Great War


Please note that this module is only available to single-honours and joint-honours students on the BA History and BA War Studies/Military History programmes. It is not available as a Wild module, nor is it available to short-credit students.

Method of assessment

The module will be assessed by coursework and exam on a 40% coursework and 60% exam ratio.

The coursework component will be assessed as follows:
1) 3 x 3000 word essays, each worth 20% of the coursework mark (8% of the total mark)
2) One in-class test, worth 20% of the coursework mark (8% of the total mark)
3) A 15 minute presentation, worth 20% of the coursework mark (8% of the total mark)

The module will also be tested in 2 x two–hour exams – which will make up 60% (30% each) of the final mark for the module.

Indicative reading

• Pat Barker Regeneration trilogy (1991-5)
• Edmund Blunden Undertones of War (1928)
• Vera Brittain Testament of Youth (1933)
• Sebastian Faulks Birdsong (1994)
• Robert Graves Goodbye to all That (1929).
• David Jones In Parenthesis (1937)
• T.E. Lawrence Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926), The Mint (1936)
• Frederic Manning The Middle Parts of Fortune (1929 aka Her Privates We)
• Erich Maria Remarque All Quiet on the Western Front (1929)
• Siegfried Sassoon The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston (1937).
• Bernard Bergonzi Heroes Twilight (1965)
• Richard Cork A Bitter Truth: avant garde art and the First World War (1994)
• Paul Fussell The Great War and Modern Memory (1976)
• Samuel Hynes: The Auden Generation (1976)
• Samuel Hynes A War Imagined: English culture and the First World War (1990)
• Adrian Thomson Anzac Memories: Living with the Legend (1992)
• John Silkin Out of Battle: the poetry of the First World War (1972)
• Martin Stephen The Price of Pity (1996)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes

As a consequence of taking this module all students will have:

11.1 acquired a firm grasp of the military and cultural history of Great War and of shifts in the representation of the conflict from 1914 to the present
11.2 demonstrated a broad conceptual command of the course, and a thorough and systematic understanding of the latest research
11.3 demonstrated their capacity to assess and critically engage with a wide range of primary sources, both visual and written
11.4 demonstrated independent learning skills by being able to make use of a wide range of high-level resources, including up-to-date research in peer-reviewed journals, information technology, relevant subject bibliographies and other primary and secondary sources
11.5 acquired the ability to analyse key texts and other materials critically at a high level

The intended generic learning outcomes

As a consequence of taking this module all students will have:

12.1 enhanced their ability to express complex ideas and arguments orally and in writing, skills which can be transferred to other areas of study and employment
12.2 enhanced communication, presentational skills and information technology skills
demonstrating the acquisition of an independent learning style
12.3 analysed, discussed, deconstructed and demonstrated cogent understanding of central texts and, subsequently, assembled and presented arguments based on this analysis
12.4 approached problem solving creatively, and formed critical and evaluative judgments about the appropriateness of these approaches


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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