The Devonshire Regiment Reserve marching along the High Street, Exeter in August 1914, surrounded by cheering crowds. Image courtesy of Devon History Society.

University of Exeter Historians contribute to conference on the First World War

On Saturday 11 October, three of Exeter University’s leading historians will be speaking at a conference examining some of the continuing questions about World War One. Dr. Bruce Coleman will look at how it all began; Prof. Jeremy Black will re-evaluate military strategy and Dr. Richard Batten will address the balance between the war front and the home front with a talk on what happened to Devon’s holiday industry once war broke out.

The scene-setting talks by professional academics will be responded to by speakers from local history societies around Devon. They will provide brief biographies of some of those from Devon who served and died, and speak about the impact of the war on Devon’s communities from places as different as Brixham and Dartmoor. There will also be an exhibition of First World War research undertaken by local history societies.

Dr. Batten comments, "It is a great privilege to be giving a paper about the First World War at this important conference alongside Professor Jeremy Black and Dr Bruce Colman. I am pleased to be talking at this event because I hope that my paper will raise awareness of different wartime experiences away from the battlefield in the county of Devon during the First World War”.

He continues, "My lecture will examine how Devon’s holiday industry responded to the challenges of the first two years of the First World War. It will place emphasis upon how some businesses within the county’s tourism sector were able to reap the financial benefits of the war whilst other holiday businesses suffered greatly as a result of wartime restrictions and criticism towards the holiday industry as a frivolous and inappropriate activity in a time of war”.

Philippe Planel, Devon History Society Chairman, said: ‘This conference is what local history is all about: the showcasing of research by local societies, framed and contextualised from national and international perspectives by inspiring academic speakers.'

Anyone is welcome to attend the conference; attendance for Devon History Society members is free, with concessions for members of affiliate societies. For further details visit the Devon History Society website.

Date: 7 October 2014

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