Department of History

Centre for Hidden Histories

Project summary

If you were to ask most people in the UK to picture a scene from the First World War, the chances are they’d imagine a skinny Tommy, clad in drab tunic and puttees, wielding a rifle and suffering in the Flanders mud. But that image only tells part of the story. The conflict was a global one that drew in participants from around the world, many of whom never even set foot in Western Europe. As the world’s first experience of ‘Total War’, the period of a century ago ushered in monumental changes that had, and continue to have, an impact on the lives of people around the world, both inside and outside theatres of war.

Mike Noble speaks about the Hidden Histories WWI project at the Connected Communities Festival 2014


Project aims

The Centre for Hidden Histories wants to help the diverse communities of 21st-century Britain to understand the contribution and sacrifice that their forebears made and the memory and legacy that remains. The Centre has been established to develop new and imaginative ways of remembering and commemorating the WWI period that are genuinely inclusive and reflect the complex and varied nature of British society in the 21st century. Drawing on the opportunities presented by the centenary of WWI, we will initiate new forms of community action and engagement around the memories and narratives of this period.

It is our intention to develop a broader understanding of WWI as a global conflict that has a continuing relevance in an increasingly cosmopolitan British society, to show how we can contribute to remembering the WWI period in a manner which will resonate across all communities in modern Britain, including those groups for whom the conventional British narratives associated with the western front omit the experiences of their ancestors.

We recognise these different experiences and the Hidden Histories project is designed to show how they can contribute to remembering the First World War period in a manner that will resonate across all communities in modern British society.

This centre is particularly interested in developing commemorative projects with national, faith and other emerging communities whose histories are rarely considered, and for whom the traditional Armistice Day celebrations may have strikingly different meanings.

The Centre can pair local groups and societies keen to commemorate the role of their communities in the war with University academics who can offer guidance on how to make their vision a reality.



Research themes

Staffed by a consortium of academics from the universities of Nottingham, Derby, Nottingham Trent, Manchester Metropolitan, Oxford Brookes, Goldsmiths and University College London, the Centre has a particular interest in the themes of migration and displacement, the experience of ‘others’ from countries and regions within Europe, Asia and the Commonwealth, the impact and subsequent legacies of the war on diverse communities within Britain, remembrance and commemoration, and identity and faith.

These themes can be expanded as:

  • Shellshock after the war. Memorials/cemeteries/remembrance, hospitals.
  • The war beyond the Western Front: Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Middle East, Salonika and elsewhere. Revolution in Europe 1917 and beyond. Postwar wars. The downfall of the Ottoman Empire and rise of the modern Middle East. The impact of the war on neutral countries.
  • The impact of the war on communities; its effect on farming and mining.
  • The position of Germans and German language teaching in the UK and the change from German names to more recognisably English ones. Language change and the First World War. The role of conscientious objectors and of pacifist groups such as Quakers.


Public engagement

Roadshow programme 2014
Community groups attended the Centre’s roadshows in Nottingham, Leicester and Derby and were given the opportunity to discuss their projects and to make plans to develop them in partnership with the Centre.

Film screening
In December 2014 we held a special screening of 'All Quiet on the Western Front' (dir. Lewis Milestone, 1930) at Broadway Nottingham. Dr Nigel Hunt gave a special introduction to the film with a focus on his research specialism of war trauma. 

Discussion event
In March 2015 we held a discussion event at which we examined aspects of the German experience of the war, including its impact on the German communities in Britain, German nationals who experienced internment, and the fate of German communities in the decades after the war


Community partners

HiddenHistoriesWWI blog

AHRC World War One
Engagement Centres

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Who's involved

Principal Investigator


Centre co-ordinator


Arts and Humanities Research Council




Department of History

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Contact details