My current research project is on German immigrants in Nottingham during the First World War. It’s a collaborative undertaking for academics, teachers and students.
This project breaks new ground, because it examines a subject that has been somewhat overlooked.
The examination focuses on: German migrant numbers and ethnic coherence; their participation in the wider society; prisoners of war, implementation of national measures such as arrest, internment and deportation of German nationals; hostile attitudes such as Germanophobia; riots and disturbances, for example in May 1915 following the sinking of the passenger ship Lusitania; and German reactions and support for the German migrants in Nottingham throughout the period.
This is new research, because the subject has not only often been ignored in academic research, but it has also largely disappeared from the collective (public) memory.
Furthermore, whereas other research and publications on Germans in the UK during this period are usually limited studies on other localities or general countrywide overviews lacking local detail, the findings of this local examination are reviewed in a UK context.
For these purposes the project uses primary sources on the history of Nottingham, available in local and national depositories such as Nottinghamshire Archives and the National Archives, and secondary sources on the history of the UK in this period.
I’m conducting this project with academics at Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham, and we are working with the Trent Academy Group (TAG) – a multi-academy trust that supports schools in providing outstanding education for their pupils. The members of the Group are: Rushcliffe School – An Academy specialising in Science; The Farnborough Academy; and Arnold Hill Academy. All three are based in Nottinghamshire, and teach the First World War as part of the curriculum.
TAG students and their teachers are collaborating in defining research questions as well as conducting aspects of the actual research activity and dissemination of the research findings. Furthermore, they are engaged in the production of lasting learning materials on this subject.
In addition to the focus of examination mentioned above, the students are questioning differences and similarities between the period of the First World War and today when it comes to the position and treatment of foreigners such as immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and the development and maintenance of British values in times of conflict, terrorist attack and war.
This assists them in broadening and deepening their historical and social knowledge and developing and honing their research and dissemination skills, and it helps them and their fellow students to identify with historical personalities and events in order to gain a greater understanding of past and present.
Thus, the project brings to life a hidden history of integration and segregation, and makes it relevant for young contemporary audiences through involvement, collaboration and dissemination, leaving a legacy in terms of experiences and learning materials that can be applied in future education and training.