The National Archives (TNA), located at Kew in in south-west London, which is the repository of all British government historical records, has just announced its latest exciting round of talks and activities as part of its ongoing centenary programme First World War 100.
The months of October-December, 2018, will thus see a particular focus on the 1918 Armistice, which will include a unique public display of the Treaty of Versailles, together with a Special Event to mark the close of TNA’s four-year First World War programme. A number of other talks will also be very useful to those historians and members of the public who have an ongoing interest in the Great War.
The Special Event, entitled ‘The Eve of Peace’, will take place at TNA on Saturday, 10th November, 2018. This will be a (free) day of talks and activities to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. According to TNA, visitors will be able to view ‘some of the most iconic documents associated with the conflict’, with TNA military historians on hand to explain their significance and how they changed the world. The day-long Special Event will include a series of short drop-in talks about the legacy of the conflict, including its impact on society, war memorials and battlefield tourism. Experts will also be on hand to help with any research or queries that visitors to TNA may have about their First World War ancestors or family history.
From 8th November to 7th December there will be a special display on the ‘Words of Peace’, which will be held in TNA’s Keeper’s Gallery located on the ground floor. Two iconic documents from TNA’s collection will be brought together and put on public display for the first time: Britain’s copies of the Armistice Agreement, signed in November, 2018, and the Treaty of Versailles, agreed at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, which ‘officially’ ended the long and bloody conflict. Both of TNA’s copies of these documents will be accompanied by an eyewitness account of the Armistice negotiations from an interpreter for the British delegation.
Other fascinating First World War 100 events at TNA this autumn will include a talk on 16th October by Mary Horlock about her book Joseph Gray’s Camouflage, which is the truly beguiling story of how Joseph Gray pioneered the development of camouflage painting. Mary Horlock, who is Gray’s granddaughter, will be in conversation about Gray’s memoirs, the role these played in her own book about him, and the influence of war on one man’s life.
Another talk to look out for takes place on 1st November, which will be on ‘Iconic Landscapes: Botany, Design and the Western Front’, delivered by Dr James Wearn. This will help attendees understand the role that the nearby and famous Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew played in the development of the Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries across the Western Front and beyond. Dr. Wearn will explore the important input of botanists, horticulturalists and gardeners.
December, 2018, will also see two further events at TNA on the Great War. On 11th December, a round-table talk event, entitled ‘Journey From Home’, will convey the findings of the ‘Journey from Home’ project, a community heritage project in the UK that explores the experiences, feelings and stories of South Asian soldiers during the First World War.
Working with young people and local communities in both London and Birmingham, the project has helped reveal stories that are not often told about those from Britain’s Empire who served in the forces in World War One. The speakers will focus on the theme of ‘sacrifice and remembrance’, and will include Amandeep Madra, Paula Kitching, Amit and Naroop, and Kiran Sahota.
And for those who are fascinated by the role of archaeology in helping us to further understand the nature of the Western Front in the 1914-18 conflict, 15th December will see a Special Event at TNA entitled ‘Dig Hill 80: Secrets of the Front Line’, where the entire Dig Hill 80 team will give a debrief on their recent excavations and a detailed presentation of their main findings. The team will share artefacts, videos and key information about Dig Hill 80, which is a crowd-funded archaeological dig of a First World War fortification.
For both the academic historian and members of the public, The National Archives’ repositories are a fantastic gem sitting on our doorstep in south-west London, located close to the very popular and beautiful Kew Gardens and also just a stone’s throw to the River Thames. There are great public transport links.
A steady flow of Kingston University history students have made use of TNA over the years, and it offers an excellent research opportunity to make use of Britain’s huge collection of State papers, files and other unique historical documents that have been produced over the centuries. It also offers opportunities to intermingle with a range of other scholars and students, both from this country and from many other corners of the globe.
Dr. Steven Woodbridge is Senior Lecturer in History in the History Department at Kingston University
(All images: WikiMedia Commons)