Over There

by I.A. Isherwood

This past week, I was in Oxford for the first Globalising and Localising the Great War conference, which is part of an initiative at the university by the same name. I presented a joint paper with a student of mine, Sarah Johnson ’15, on the impact and memory of the First World War in Gettysburg. Sarah has blogged on her impressions, but I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a few of my own.

The field of First World War studies, indeed that of war studies itself, is vibrant, accessible, and lively. The research we saw was interdisciplinary, smartly conceptualized, and international. There were panels on memory, logistics, artistic representations, the politics of identity, and globalizing the First World War. I am very confident in writing that the research coming out of the centenary is incredibly diverse and will have a lasting impact on the way the First World War is studied in the future.

Our research is largely on the way that a site of American war memory was impacted by the First World War and how the community of Gettysburg’s contributions to the American war effort have largely been forgotten. We got some really excellent questions. Through questions, you can really gain an understanding of what major ideas people are getting from your work. It was clear to me that the issue of historical forgetfulness, as well as historical remembering, is a major theme of our study that we need to put more thought into.

On a broader scale, we got to connect with people whose lives are consumed with the study of the First World War. These connections are what make academic conferences really energizing. Perhaps more than anything else, it was extremely gratifying to give a paper with one of my students. The opportunity to congregate with the wider community of scholarship, for Sarah to show her skills as an historian, and for us to make connections between the war’s localized impact with its globalized ramifications, meant that I came home with a sense of distinct hopefulness towards my profession, current research, and the field in general.