Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council Research Networking Scheme, the Teaching and Learning War research network brought together EU and international researchers and stakeholders, from a range of academic disciplines and professional backgrounds, to explore young people’s engagement with and receptivity to the cultural memory messages of the two world wars from an international comparative perspective. At the centenary of the First World War in the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand young people found themselves front and centre of both state-sponsored and community-level commemorations. As the two world wars fade from living memory, young people across the Commonwealth were singled out as those who will carry the memory of the war forward. Early indications suggest similar emphasis will be placed on young people in the 80th and 90th anniversaries of the Second World War.
It is at this juncture, as the commemorative focus in Britain and the Commonwealth shifts from the First to the Second World War, that new questions arise about 1) the ways these cataclysmic events are taught in the 21st century, 2) what cultural memory messages feature in education, 3) how young people respond to and interpret these messages, and 4) the relationship between education and commemoration. While study of memory and war remembrance has intensified in recent years, the way young people engage with the cultural messages about these seminal historical events is largely unexplored. Interrogating the practices of teaching and learning about war remembrance has the potential to illuminate how memories of war are shaped. To enable us to explore these issues, networking events, hosted over the course of 2017 to 2019, centred on four main questions:
- How do young people think about the past?
- How have indigenous and/or ethnic minority histories been integrated into the representation and teaching of the two world wars?
- What role does empathy play in the teaching of the two world wars?
- How does youth-centred centenary commemorative activity compare across the British world?