Dr Laura Rowe

Senior Lecturer

2049

01392 722049

I’m an historian of Britain and the early part of the twentieth century, focusing particularly on the cultural and social history of the Great War, and the Royal Navy in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I’ve also worked on morale, discipline and combat motivation; homosexuality and the armed forces; the construction of heroism; and the spread of Bolshevism in inter-war Britain. My first monograph Morale and Discipline in the Royal Navy in the Great War was published by Cambridge University Press in 2018, and I’m now working on a  BA/Leverhulme-funded project: ‘Communities of Mourning: Manning Ports and the Memory of the Great War’.

 

 

Research interests

My current BA/Leverhulme-funded project is ‘Communities of Mourning: Manning Ports and the Memory of the Great War’. The First World War left communities across Great Britain in mourning for their sons. With peace came the challenge of how to commemorate the dead. Whilst many studies have focused on the land war, the naval war has been entirely excluded from that debate. By focusing on the three historic homes of the Royal Navy (Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham), ‘Communities of Mourning’ will expand understandings of the legacies of total war and re-energise the academic history of remembrance by focusing attention on themes other than land warfare and by insisting on the need to re-connect and examine the dissonances between local, institutional and national histories of commemoration. This project will uncover the different narratives of the war that competed and co-existed and the complexities of balancing representations of service, sacrifice, profit and loss for individuals and communities whose defining experiences of the war were not the trenches.

 

My previous research has primarily examined issues of morale, discipline and combat motivation in the Royal Navy in the Great War with particular reference to the relationships between the navy and civilian society; however, I have a keen comparative interest in these issues for the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries both in Britain and in other countries. I also work on a number of other areas including the construction and uses of heroism, sexuality and normative behaviour in the armed forces, and the influence of Bolshevism in post-war Britain. My research combines the fields of First World War Studies, military and naval history, command and leadership studies, gender history, industrial relations and international relations.

 

Grants Awarded

  • British Academy Small Grant (2018), ‘Communities of Mourning: Manning Ports and the Memory of the Great War’ - £8,224
  • EU scheme INTERREG for cross-border cooperation, Co-Investigator (2013), ‘1914FACES2014’ - £193,902

Publications:

Monographs

  • Morale and Discipline in the Royal Navy during the Great War (CUP, 2018)

Edited Volumes

  • with JE Kitchen, A Miller (eds), Other Combatants, Other Fronts: Competing Histories of the First World War, (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011)

Selected Peer Reviewed Articles and Book Chapters

  • 'Constructing heroism: submarines, submariners and the Dardanelles Campaign, 1915’, Journal for Maritime Research, 2019
  • ‘Conceptualising Discipline in the Royal Navy in the Era of the Great War’, NIDS Military History Studies Annual, vol. 14, National Institute for Defense Studies, 2011, 101-121

Book Reviews

  • The Great Naval Game: Britain and Germany in the Age of Empire’, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 44, no. 3, 2009, 547-548

Articles under consideration

  • ‘‘Step This Way, Please!’: Gender Transgression and Normative Behaviour in the Royal Navy in the Early 20th Century’, submitted to the Journal of British Studies

 

Selected Seminar and Conference Papers

  • ‘The Memorials the Navy Never Wanted: The Significance of the Manning Port Memorials’ given at The First World War at Sea: Conflict, Culture and Commemoration conference at the National Maritime Museum, 8th-10th November, 2018
  • Chaired session on ‘Representation and commemoration of the First World War: twenty-first century perspectives’ at the IHR’s Anglo-American Conference in July 2014 and took part in a panel review session of Professor Ian Beckett’s latest book 'The Making of the First World War' (Yale University Press, 2014)
  • ‘Constructing Heroism: submarines, submariners and the Dardanelles campaign 1915’ given at Anglo-German Naval Arms Race and the First World War at Sea Conference, 16th-18th July, 2014 (a version of this paper was also given at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in March 2014)
  • ‘‘Step This Way, Please!’: Gender Transgression and Normative Behaviour in the Royal Navy in the Early 20th Century’, given at the NECBS, University of Storrs, 4th-5th October, 2013 (this paper has also been given at ‘Gendering the Maritime World’ symposium at the National Maritime Museum, 24th April, 2014)
  • ‘Combat Experience and the Royal Navy: Reconstructing Narratives’, given at the Third International Gallipoli Symposium, Çanakkale Foundation, Istanbul, 20th-21st April, 2012 – Convened by Dr Mehdi İlhan & Dr Ibrahim Güran Yumuşak
  • ‘Bolshevism and the British Fleet, 1917-1920’, given at University College Dublin’s Centre for War Studies seminar, 26th April, 2012
  • ‘Homosexuality and the Royal Navy in the Era of the Great War’, given at the British Commission for Maritime History, King’s College, London, 14th October, 2010
  • ‘Manning the Service: Masculinity in the Senior Service at the Turn of the 20th Century’, given at the ‘Engendering Gender: Production, Transmission and Change 1500-1950’ conference, University of Exeter, 20-23rd July, 2010 – Organised by Prof. Henry French
  • ‘Conceptualising Discipline in the Royal Navy in the Era of the Great War’, given at the National Institute for Defense Studies, Defense Ministry of Japan, 23rd April, 2010 – Convened by Prof. Tomoyuki Ishizu

Membership of Learned Societies

  • Member of the International Society for First World War Studies since 2003
  • Member of the Research and Programmes Committee of the Society for Nautical Research, 2011-2015

 

 

Research supervision

I am currently supervising PhDs on the RNLI in the mid-19th century.

 

I would welcome PhDs on the social and cultural history of the Great War; morale, discipline and combat motivation; homosexuality and the armed services in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; the Royal Navy in the 19th and 20th centuries; and other related topics.

External impact and engagement

  • 2018 Talk to the Oundle Historical Society on the challenges facing the town as it endeavoured to commemorate the Great War
  • 2017 part of the panel for ‘Jutland: The Big Debate’ organised by the National Museum of the Royal Navy and livestreamed on Dan Snow’s Periscope TV channel
  • 2015 Talk to the Oundle Branch of Probus on the changing concept of heroism in World War One
  • 2014 Talk to the Oundle Historical Society about Oundle’s response to the outbreak of the Great War
  • 2014 Sessions with primary school children on life in the British Army during the Great War
  • 2012 Sample lecture to local VIth formers as part of the Widening Participation Programme

Contribution to discipline

  • Selection panel member for the Alan Pearsall Fellowship at the IHR (2018-present)
  • Selection panel member for the Julian Corbett Prize at the IHR (2018-present)
  • Specialist expert to review grant proposals for the AHRC

 

Media

  • Interviewed for BBC ‘Spotlight South West’ (2018)
  • BBC Radio 3 ‘Proms Plus: Sinking of the Lusitania’ for BBC Radio 3 (2018)
  • BBC Radio 3 ‘We Need to Talk About Death’ (2017)
  • Interviewed for BBC Radio Devon’s ‘Drive Time’ (2016)
  • Interviewed for BBC Radio Devon’s ‘Simon Bates Programme’ (2016)
  • Interviewed for LBC (2016)
  • Interviewed for BBC New Channel (2016)
  • Interviewed for BBC Radio Four’s ‘Today’ Programme (2014)
  • Interviewed for over 20 local radio stations about the outbreak of The Great War (2014)
  • Interviewed for BBC Radio Devon’s ‘The Great War at Home’ series (BBC Radio Devon, 2014 & 2015)
  • Appeared on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ (BBC One, 2012)

 

Biography

I completed my BA in Modern History (1999-2002) and MSt in Historical Studies at Worcester College, Oxford. After taking a year away from academia to learn German I moved to the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London. There I undertook a PhD thesis entitled ‘Morale and Discipline in the Royal Navy during the First World War’. Following completion of my PhD I was award the Alan Pearsall Post Doctoral Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research in London. I was appointed as a Lecturer in Naval History at the University of Exeter in September 2009. I have been a member of the International Society for First World War Studies since 2003, and in 2009 was Chair of the organising committee of their Fifth bi-annual conference, held at the Imperial War Museum, London.