Portrait of Dr Peter Donaldson

Dr Peter Donaldson

Senior Lecturer
Chief Examiner


Peter Donaldson studied his undergraduate degree at Leicester University, before completing a PhD at Kent in 2005. 

Research interests

Peter's current research focus is on the relationship between sport and war in the British popular imagination in the 19th and 20th centuries. He is currently working on a monograph, Sport, War and the British: 1850 to the present, to be published by Routledge in 2020. 


Peter teaches on military history, particularly the role of the Army in the British Empire and aspects of the  First World War. 


Peter is happy to supervise dissertations on the cultural impact of the First World War.


Peter is Principal Examiner for Edexcel 'A' Level History, and frequently lends his knowledge of the A-Level syllabus and examination methods to the School of History's A-Level revision day, and similar outreach events.



  • Donaldson, P. (2020). Commemorating the Crimean, South African and First World Wars: A Case-Study of the Royal Engineers, 1856–1922. War & Society [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/07292473.2020.1741770.
    The First World War is often held to be a watershed in the memorialisation of war in Britain. Through an exploration of the Royal Engineers’ commemorative space at their headquarters in Chatham, this article argues that the post–1918 war memorial boom displays not only divergences from, but also continuities with, Victorian and Edwardian practices. Thus, although the mass volunteerism and conscription of 1914–1918 resulted in both the rank and file and the bereaved being drawn into the memorialisation process for the first time, memorial forms and messages, nonetheless, retained firm links with commemorative rituals of the late nineteenth century.
  • Donaldson, P. (2017). ‘We are having a very enjoyable game’: Britain, sport and the South African War, 1899–1902. War in History [Online] 25. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0968344516652422.
    This article explores the relationship between sport and war in Britain during the South African War, 1899–1902. Through extensive press coverage, as well as a spate of memoirs and novels, the British public was fed a regular diet of war stories and reportage in which athletic endeavour and organized games featured prominently. This contemporary literary material sheds light on the role sport was perceived to have played in the lives and work of the military personnel deployed in South Africa. It also, however, reveals a growing unease over an amateur-military tradition which equated sporting achievement with military prowess.
  • Donaldson, P. (2014). The Origins of the First World War. Teaching History:0-0.
  • Donaldson, P. (2013). The Commemoration of the South African War (1899-1902) in British Public Schools. History and Memory [Online] 25:0-0. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.2979/histmemo.25.2.32.
    Mass public commemoration of war dead in Britain is often held to be a twentiethcentury phenomenon, with its genesis in the Great War. However, the war memorial movement in the aftermath of the South African War (1899–1902) foreshadowed that of the Great War and acted as a blueprint for later commemorative activity. At the forefront of this movement were the nation's great public schools. The memorialization process provided these institutions with the opportunity to mold the memory of their alumni's war service to reaffirm the validity of their underlying principles and ethos.
  • Donaldson, P. (2011). In the Name of the Fallen: Legitimising the Great War in Kent. Archaeologia Cantiana 131:143-158.
  • Donaldson, P. (2010). The Boers of Brompton Barracks. Bygone Kent 31:24-29.
  • Connelly, M. and Donaldson, P. (2010). South African War (1899-1902) memorials in Britain: a case study of memorialization in London and Kent. War and Society [Online] 29:20-46. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1179/204243410X12674422128830.
    Mass public commemoration of war dead is often held to be a twentieth-century phenomenon, with its genesis in the Great War. This article argues for a pre-history occasioned by commemoration of the South African War (1899–1902) that built on shifts in the form and function of war memorials that had begun in the middle of the nineteenth century.
  • Donaldson, P. (2009). The Great War and Cultural History. Teaching History 134:24.
    The article discusses the public's response in Great Britain to World War I, which was fought from 1914 to 1918, the relationship between the home and fighting fronts, and the popular mood in the aftermath of hostilities. According to the article, these three factors from the center of what is referred to as the myth of the war. Several teaching ideas for secondary history education teachers in Great Britain are given.
  • Donaldson, P. (2007). Major Mick Mannock: Canterbury’s only V.C.?. Bygone Kent:0-0.


  • Donaldson, P. (2020). Sport, War and the British: 1850 to the Present. [Online]. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/Sport-War-and-the-British-1850-to-the-Present/Donaldson/p/book/9780367340780.
    Spanning the colonial campaigns of the Victorian age to the War on Terror after 9/11, this study explores the role sport was perceived to have played in the lives and work of military personnel, and examines how sporting language and imagery were deployed to shape and reconfigure civilian society’s understanding of conflict.

    From 1850 onwards war reportage – complemented and reinforced by a glut of campaign histories, memoirs, novels and films – helped create an imagined community in which sporting attributes and qualities were employed to give meaning and order to the chaos and misery of warfare. This work explores the evolution of the Victorian notion that playing-field and battlefield were connected and then moves on to investigate the challenges this belief faced in the twentieth century, as combat became, initially, industrialised in the age of total warfare and, subsequently, professionalised in the post-nuclear world. Such a longitudinal study allows, for the first time, new light to be shed on the continuities and shifts in the way the ‘reality’ of war was captured in the British popular imagination.
  • Donaldson, P. (2013). Remembering the South African War. [Online]. Liverpool University Press. Available at: http://www.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/index.php/?option=com_wrapper&view=wrapper&Itemid=54&AS1=9781846319686.
    The experience of the South African War sharpened the desire to commemorate for a number of reasons. An increasingly literate public, a burgeoning populist press, an army reinforced by waves of volunteers and, to contemporaries at least, a shockingly high death toll embedded the war firmly in the national consciousness. In addition, with the fallen buried far from home those left behind required other forms of commemoration. For these reasons, the South African War was an important moment of transition in commemorative practice and foreshadowed the rituals of remembrance that engulfed Britain in the aftermath of the Great War. This work provides the first comprehensive survey of the memorialisation process in Britain in the aftermath of the South African War. The approach goes beyond the simple deconstruction of memorial iconography and, instead, looks at the often tortuous and lengthy gestation of remembrance sites, from the formation of committees to the raising of finance and debates over form. In the process both Edwardian Britain’s sense of self and the contested memory of the conflict in South Africa are thrown into relief. In the concluding sections of the book the focus falls on other forms of remembrance sites, namely the multi-volume histories produced by the War Office and The Times, and the seminal television documentaries of Kenneth Griffith. Once again the approach goes beyond simple textual deconstruction to place the sources firmly in their wider context by exploring both production and reception. By uncovering the themes and myths that underpinned these interpretations of the war, shifting patterns in how the war was represented and conceived are revealed.
  • Donaldson, P. (2006). Ritual and Remembrance: The Memorialisation of the Great War in East Kent. Cambridge Scholars Press.
    This book seeks to explore the spate of memorial construction that took place at civic and local level in the immediate aftermath of the Great War. At the heart of the work lies an examination of the layering of memory in this commemorative activity as the war dead were remembered in their various different roles, as citizens, work colleagues, school alumni, club members, parishioners, regimental comrades and, of course, fathers, husbands and sons. The study concentrates on the major urban centres of Canterbury, Folkestone and Dover, each of which experienced something of a revival during the war years and sought to perpetuate this renewed standing through the rituals of remembrance. Yet, though the focus is on the conflicts and compromises that underpinned communal commemoration, sight is not lost of the private tragedies that lay at the heart of collective remembrance. In uncovering the process by which local dignitaries actively sought the participation of the bereaved in the rites of constructing a war memorial, not least through the compilation of the names of the fallen, an impression of the almost palpable sense of sorrow that pervaded society in the immediate aftermath of the fighting is captured. It is the impact of these conflicting claims, the tension that existed within this complex matrix of remembrance and the extent to which the memory of the fallen was shaped by the demands of competing schemes that forms the basis of this study. In particular the focus falls on the memorialisation process itself, the debates over form and style, the rituals of naming and financing and the ceremonies for unveiling and dedication, for it was in this often lengthy and convoluted process that those in authority could assume control over the rites of mourning and transform private grief into a public narrative.

Book section

  • Donaldson, P. (2013). Writing the Anglo-Boer War: Leo Amery, Frederick Maurice and the History of the South African War. In: Constantine, R. J. ed. New Perspectives on the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902. National Museum, Bloemfontein.
  • Donaldson, P. (2011). Remembering the Dead, Forgiving the Enemy: the Royal Engineers and the Commemoration of the Boer War. In: Andrews, M., Bagot-Jewitt, C. and Hunt, N. eds. Lest We Forget. Stroud, Gloucestershire: History Press.


  • Donaldson, P. (2014). Stephen Heathorn, Haig and Kitchener in Twentieth Century Britain: Remembrance, Representation and Appropriation. American Historical Review [Online] 119:605-606. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ahr/119.2.605a.
    With governments, publishers, and cultural institutions gearing up for the hundredth anniversary of the Great War, tensions have already come to the fore about how the event should be marked. Should this be a time for national celebration or global reflection? In Britain, the inclusion of Sebastian Faulks on the First World War Centenary Advisory Board has exacerbated the concerns of some academics that the general public will be presented with yet another variant of Paul Fussell's “Oh What a Literary War” (in The Great War and Modern Memory [2000]). In this representation, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force from December 1915 to 1918, takes center stage as the donkey-in-chief, blundering from one attritional disaster to the next, while Lord Kitchener, the secretary of state for war from 1914 until his death in June 1916, serves as a metonym for the heroic age of Victorian imperialism that had had its day.
  • Donaldson, P. (2011). K. Elliott-Jones and W.Cope, eds., The Swansea War-Time Diary of Laurie Latchford 1940-41. Journal of the British Records Association:0-0.
  • Donaldson, P. (2010). Jeffrey S. Reznick, Healing the Nation: Soldiers and the Culture of Caregiving in Britain during the Great War. American Historical Review [Online] 115:892-893. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/ahr.115.3.892.


  • Gregory, P. (2016). The Funny Side of War: British Cartoons, Visual Humour and the Great War.
    This thesis examines cartoons and the humour they express throughout the Great War of 1914-1918. Its aim is to highlight the relevance of visual material in an historical context, to draw upon humour as an insight to cultural moods and attitudes in wartime, and to bring an interdisciplinary approach to the cultural history of the Great War. To do this it will highlight the humour of different British cartoonists in selected newspapers and publications throughout the war and beyond. Primarily it will take a thematic and qualitative approach to visual topics expressed in cartoons analysing their connections to the rest of wartime society. Visual interpretations of public controls, entertainment, avoidance of social duty and comparisons between soldier and civilian responses to the war will be analysed. All of which will look to the use of humour in society relating to these topics in the context of war. Thereafter, the thesis will combine these themes into a formation of memory termed 'commercial' reflecting images and in turn memories sold to the public through cartoons.
    The thesis crosses areas of historical inquiry generating a new dialogue with the cultural history of the Great War, developing ideas of humour, media studies and visual source investigation. War, humour and newspapers are consistent points of reference throughout, combined with a broader historiography as appropriate. Cartoon sources provide the visual basis of the investigation, alongside news articles and reference to official data where applicable. Overall, the interdisciplinary dialogue created between the historiographies of war, humour and visual media promote developing historical investigations, newly bound together in an understanding of the commercial memory of humorous wartime cartoons.
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