Manuscripts and Special Collections

Weston Gallery Exhibition

The First World War in The University of Nottingham’s Historic Collections 

Dates: Friday 9 May to Sunday 17 August 2014

Admission free

2014 sees the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. This exhibition looks at the war through the eyes of the people who experienced it - from the soldier on the battlefield to the worker in the munitions factory, from the volunteer nurse to the wife and mother, and from the British ‘Tommy’ to the German ‘Fritz’.


WW1 Soldier 

The First World War was a ‘total war’ in which all available people and resources were geared towards the war effort. The exhibition explores the effects of the events of 1914-1918 on ordinary people caught up in events beyond their control, looking at its impact on business, student life, literature and the place of women in society. Contemporary attitudes to the conflict are also examined, from the widespread propaganda of recruitment images to post-war efforts to memorialise the dead.

The display draws on the University of Nottingham’s historic archival and library collections. It tells the personal stories of those who participated, using a wide range of material, from postcards and letters sent back from the front line to the patriotic games played by British children. The impact of the war on the University is explored, showing how it dealt with the departure of almost all of its male students and many of its teachers to the front line. The exhibition will also include the stories of three Nottinghamshire families who all sent at least three sons to fight, with very different outcomes. The display then widens out to reflect the truly global nature of the war with material ranging from the papers of a quartermaster in the American Expeditionary Force to the letters of a German soldier in a Russian Prisoner of War Camp.

This exhibition has been curated by Manuscripts and Special Collections at The University of Nottingham.

Join our mailing list

Ask to join our mailing list to receive invitations to future private views of the exhibitions.

For the latest news and images on the progress of  exhibitionS, follow us on Twitter: twitter.com/mssLakeside


Lunchtime Talks

1PM – 2PM



A series of talks will be held to accompany the exhibition. Places are limited so please book in advance with the Box Office on 0115 846 7777

Tuesday 20 May

Cigarettes, Soldiers, Sailors and the British Home Front: the war and the tobacco industry.

One of the abiding images of the First World War is of soldiers smoking in the trenches of the Western Front. The images could also be of soldiers in Gallipoli or Mesopotamia, or of sailors on watch. Although German U-boats hit hard imports to Britain, tobacco was imported and processed to maintain morale. Soldiers and sailors received Christmas tins of tobacco from the state, and on the Home Front people sent tobacco, cigarettes and even cigars to their loved ones in the armed forces. Emeritus Professor Chris Wrigley looks at the ubiquitous presence of tobacco during the war and its impact on the tobacco industry.

Wednesday 25 June

'Why I changed my name and did my duty' - one family's experience of WW1.'

Everybody has heard of the futile slaughter on the Somme, at Verdun, Paschendaele and Ypres, the trenches, 'shell shock' and the 1914 Christmas truce. But what made men volunteer, why did they go on fighting, how was morale maintained in such appalling conditions? Emeritus Professor Malcolm Jones looks at how the experience of individual soldiers could vary immensely, as illustrated by the stories of the three Vince brothers and their families.

Thursday 24 July

The First World War: a test of manhood or the collapse of humanity?

This lecture given by Professor Roger Woods of the German department will look at how German autobiographical accounts written in the Weimar years by nationalists, communists, pacifists, and deserters cut across this divide to reveal surprisingly similar mentalities.



Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4565
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 8651
email: mss-library@nottingham.ac.uk