Imagining the First World War (HIH2231A)

StaffDr Timothy Rees - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module is not a history of British involvement in the First World War, as such, but focuses upon the war as an experience that has left an indelible mark upon British culture and identity. It examines our images of the war: ranging from physical and cultural forms (photographs, paintings, film, poetry, prose, posters, cartoons, memorials, language, rituals) to historical ones (the experience of the trenches, the role of women, the notion of total war, of social and economic change, for example). We will explore these images, looking at how we construct and remember the past, how our sense of history affects our behaviour and the ‘lessons’ we draw from it today, and comparing ‘image’ and ‘reality’. Lectures involve the study of a series of images (photographs, paintings, drawings, cartoons) that illustrate the main themes of the module, interspersed with a series of feature films concerning the war that date from the conflict itself up to the present day. The module encourages a high degree of student engagement with primary sources.

You will need effective communication and analytical skills, oral and written, to complete many of your modules and in a job after you graduate.  This module aims to help you develop your skills in researching, interpreting, and analysing both primary and secondary material, and in reporting on your work.  It provides you with an opportunity to explore an area of history in more depth, and helps you to develop the depth of understanding you will require to study more specialised areas of history.  It will also give you an opportunity to work in a team on a group presentation.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Be aware of the various developments in the history of the British experience of the First World War.
  • 2. Make a close evaluation of the key developments and debates in British perceptions and understanding of the First World War.
  • 3. Evaluate the main themes in the subject and collate information upon, and evaluate in greater detail, those aspects of the module discussed in seminar and especially those topics selected by students for their coursework.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Analyse the key developments the impact of the First World War on British culture.
  • 5. Collate data from a range of sources, both primary and secondary.
  • 6. Interpret primary sources.
  • 7. Trace long-term as well as short-term historical developments.
  • 8. Recognise and deploy historical terminology correctly.
  • 9. Assess different approaches to historical writing in areas of controversy.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 10. Work both independently and in a group, including participating in oral seminar discussions.
  • 11. Identify a topic, select, comprehend, and organise primary and secondary materials on that topic with little guidance.
  • 12. Produce to a deadline and in examination conditions a coherent argument.

Syllabus plan

There are 11 two-hour lectures. A majority of these are presentations based upon original visual sources (photographs, paintings, sculpture, cartoons, and drawings) which examine a series of key themes such as mobilisation for war, the nature of the trenches, the development of a home front, remembrance and memory. These are interspersed by a series of cinema films depicting the war ranging from 1918 to the present day.


The seminars examine a wide variety of different aspects of our understanding of the war, including:

  • Literary and visual representations of the war
  • The war and changing gender relations
  • Life in the trenches
  • The rush to the colours
  • Pacifism and war resistance
  • The war as a ‘total’ war
  • Moral panic and the war
  • Democratization and the war
  • Remembrance and memory

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities22Lectures examining key themes on the course, interspersed with screenings of films depicting the war as described in the Syllabus Plan.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities22Seminars; these will be led by the tutor. You will need to prepare for each seminar and present on a given topic in groups of 4.
Guided independent study256Reading and preparation for seminars and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan 500 words1-12Verbal and written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay303000 words1-12Verbal and written
Exam502 questions in 2 hours1-12Written
Group presentation2025 minutes1-12Verbal and written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (3000 words)1-12Referral/deferral period
ExamExam (2 questions in 2 hours)1-12Referral/deferral period
Group presentationScript as for individual presentation, equivalent to 10 minutes1-12Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Ashworth, Tony. Trench Warfare (London, 1980).

Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory (Oxford, 1975).

Gregory, Adrian. The Last Great War. British Society and the First World War (Cambridge, 2008).

Hynes, Samuel. A War Imagined (London, 1990).

Robb, George. British Culture and the First World War (Basingstoke, 2002).

Todman, Dan. The Great War: Myth and Memory (London, 2005).

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Imperial War Museum

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Shoulder Arms (1918).

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).

King and Country (1964).

Barker, Pat. Regeneration (London, 1991).

Brittain, Vera. Testament of Youth (London, 1935).

Faulks, Sebastian. Birdsong (London, 1994).

Graves, Robert. Goodbye to All That (London, 1929).

Sassoon, Siegfried. The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston (London, 1937).

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

First World War, Warfare, Great War, Popular Culture, Britain, Film, Television, Remembrance