Monday, 27 January 2020

Great War Archeology Group (2005)

Great War Archaeology Group: mission statement
Written By: Neil Faulkner
Date: January 2005
Published In LSHG Newsletter Issue 23: Lent 2005 

Flags are bits of coloured cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s minds and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead. (Arundhati Roy, Indian writer and anti-war activist, 2004)

The archaeology of 20th century conflict is a growing sub-discipline. From the battlefields of the world wars to the killing-fields of totalitarianism, increasing numbers of archaeologists are involved in sifting the evidence and joining the debate about contemporary history.

As we approach the centenary of the Great War (2014), the first of the 20th century’s great conflicts, academic and popular interest is likely to increase, not least because attempts to understand it are also attempts to understand the present. For we still live in its shadow. The century since has been an epoch of imperialism, war and revolution. Viewed in retrospect, the Great War inaugurated a period of conflict and suffering that has not yet ended. Research and debate therefore have immediate contemporary relevance.

Nationalist and imperialist perspectives inform much work on the Great War. We still live in a world dominated by great powers and giant corporations, and academic justifications for empire and war enjoy wide circulation. Our aim, as the Great War Archaeology Group, is to undertake field research and intervene in debate and interpretation from an anti-imperialist and anti-war perspective. We start as a group of academic, professional and student archaeologists based in Britain, but we hope to work collaboratively with colleagues based in other countries, especially in Europe, both archaeologists and historians. This translates into the following specific aims:

1. We reject the separation of three strands of historical enquiry: a) military history from above (the history of military operations); b) military history from below (based on personal letters, diaries, memoirs, and oral history research); and c) the history of popular struggles and revolutionary movements. Instead, we aim to integrate them into a single study of the period. We see numerous inextricable links between these three strands; that is, between the ‘macro-history’ of politicians and generals, the ‘micro-history’ of human experience at the front and in the workplace, and the great people’s revolt which developed across the globe from 1917 onwards and finally brought the war to an end.

2. We reject narrow, nationalist interpretations – such as that which sees the Allied war-effort as a necessary response to ‘German expansionism’ or ‘German militarism’. Instead, we will develop wider understandings of inter-imperialist competition, the pre-war arms race, and the inherent irrationality of the global system in the early 20th century. We will be taking an internationalist approach to research. We will investigate sites representing the experience of different nationalities, theatres of war, and battlegrounds. And we will seek contact with academics and fieldworkers outside Britain to develop a more comprehensive view of the entire human experience, its meaning, and its lessons for the present. We plan to offer an alternative Great War to that of nationalist politicians, academic apologists, and military historians.

3. We reject narrow, nationalist interpretations – such as that which sees the Allied war-effort as a necessary response to ‘German expansionism’ or ‘German militarism’. Instead, we will develop wider understandings of inter-imperialist competition, the pre-war arms race, and the inherent irrationality of the global system in the early 20th century. We will be taking an internationalist approach to research. We will investigate sites representing the experience of different nationalities, theatres of war, and battlegrounds. And we will seek contact with academics and fieldworkers outside Britain to develop a more comprehensive view of the entire human experience, its meaning, and its lessons for the present. We plan to offer an alternative Great War to that of nationalist politicians, academic apologists, and military historians.

4. We will contribute to the popular presentation of Great War history and archaeology, through newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, internet, and other media. We will also encourage popular participation in the investigation of the world’s shared heritage through public archaeology initiatives, such as training courses, volunteer fieldwork, and making sites available for public viewing. As archaeologists, we are very aware of the power of place. The preservation of Auschwitz as a heritage site is an immensely powerful argument against fascism. The preservation of Great War sites – properly presented and interpreted – constitute equally powerful arguments against imperialism, nationalism and war.

5. We will contribute to the recovery, identification and burial of some of the many soldiers of the Great War still listed as missing. We believe this should be done as a contemporary memorial to the waste of war, the irrationality of the global system that spawns it, and the dangers inherent in a world divided into competing nation-states and corporations.

No comments:

Post a comment