Navigating complexities in the study of war

The world-wide centenary commemorations of WWl are providing teachers with an unprecedented number of authentic resources from around the world with which to develop a study of that war. The inaugural Remember, Research, Reflect professional learning day that was held in December 2014 in collaboration with the Shrine of Remembrance, State Library of Victoria, HTAV and Museum Victoria was a great way to start the conversation about how one might study an event that had such a wide ranging impact and such devastating consequences.

A pencil sketch of Gallipoli with a boat in the foreground
This sketch was made by Herbert Hillier from an observation balloon above Anzac Cove on the morning after the first landings at Gallipoli. The image will appear in the WW1 Centenary Exhibition at Melbourne Museum. Source: Imperial War Museum

I have been asked to provide teachers in Victoria with an introduction to the WWl Centenary Exhibition which will be on show at Melbourne Museum from early April to late October 2015, and collate suitable resources to facilitate study in the classroom. Curated by researchers at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) of London, the WWl Centenary Exhibition will provide a comprehensive overview of the war and the many nations that were drawn into the battle. The content fits well with the AusVELS learning outcomes for the study of WWl in general. The IWM exhibition will also provide a good introduction to the Love & Sorrow exhibition, produced by Melbourne Museum, which focuses on the impact of the war through eight poignant stories from Australian families.

I am hoping this blog might generate a lively discussion and new perspectives from readers of this blog. Over the next few weeks I intend to pose some of the questions that come to mind in the course of my research. I am mapping internet research with diigo, to capture and order websites visited, so I will provide links to these sites as well.

The big question I am trying to understand this week is:

What were the causes of WWl and was it an inevitable clash of colonial powers?

Wars are a difficult topic of study, however, as they can challenge the widely held desire for peace and harmony in the world, and indeed my own inherent pacifism. Nevertheless, as the daughter of post-World War 11 migrants and the sister of a Vietnam War conscript, I am keenly aware of the lingering aftermath of these momentous destructive events and the consequences that ensue. While it is important to commemorate those who sacrificed their health and/or lives to bravely face the horror of war, it’s important to provide a critical and balanced view of the political dynamics that lead to war—a cause and effect account that is not completely one-sided and which tries to critically examine the available evidence. A critical analysis might, for example, analyse the use of language that seeks to valorise and/or demonize the participants of war.

I’m also interested in  how other teachers approach critical readings of historical events and texts:

 How do we navigate the complexities of studying war stories with our students?

It would be great to have a conversation about some of those things here. Feel free to post a comment.