Dr Catriona Pennell

Research interests

My research focuses on the cultural history of war, particularly the First World War. I am interested in how familial and local experiences of the war can help us understand the broader framework of this unprecedented global conflict. My first monograph based on my doctoral research examines popular responses in Britain and Ireland to the outbreak of the First World War and was published with Oxford University Press in March 2012 (reprinted in paperback in 2014).

My next project, funded by the British Academy, continued my interest in the Irish participation in the war by examining the home and fighting front experiences of the 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) divisions during the Somme offensives of 1916 and March 1918, as well as the 1918 Conscription Crisis.

I was also the PI on an AHRC funded 'Care for the Future' exploratory award 'The First World War in the Classroom' (with Dr Ann-Marie Einhaus, Northumbria) which sought to examine how the First World War is taught in English Literature and History classrooms in England and its relationship to the transmission of cultural memory, particularly in the light of the centenary. This project, in part, stemmed from my 'First World War Schools Workshop' initiative which ran from 2010 - 2015 where groups of undergraduates, as part of their module on the First World War, taught a 60-minute primary source based workshop to Year 9 or 10 pupils in Cornish secondary schools, exposing local schoolchildren (and their teachers) to some of the latest research on the topic. As part of the above AHRC project, I also co-organised a symposium for school teachers on how the First World War is taught at secondary and university level, and advised exam boards during the process of curriculum reform relating to the topic. 

I was also CI on a large scale interdisciplinary EU INTERREG IV-funded project, 'FACE', that explores the cultural and medical legacy of facial disfigurement in 20th century conflict, in particular the First World War. 

In January 2015, I was appointed the Lead Academic on the First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme, leading their evaluation of pupil experience between 2015 and 2019.

In March 2017, I began work as PI on the AHRC-funded 'Teaching and Learning War Research Network: Education and Modern Conflict in an International Comparative Perspective', an interdisciplinary project that runs for two years and explores, over a series of four events, questions relating to the relationship between education and the transmission/reception of cultural memory messages of the two world wars.

In May 2017, I began work as Co-I on the AHRC-funded ‘Reflections on the Centenary: Learning and Legacies for the Future’, with colleagues in Essex, Kent and Glasgow running from 2017 to 2020. We will investigate the impact of events marking the centenary of the First World War and explore in what ways these activities have shaped people’s knowledge of the war and the impact the conflict has had on communities and individuals. We will be asking if people have developed new skills based on their involvement in centenary events; what has gone well, what could have been done better and will the legacies of the centenary and the war be shaping people’s lives in the future?

Moving beyond the First World War, I am developing my interest in the post-war Middle East, particularly the British mandate period in Palestine, Iraq and Transjordan, examining imperial control in practice and the question of ‘power’ behind the mandated thrones.