An evening with Sir Hew Strachan, Britain’s leading First World War historian

An evening with Sir Hew Strachan, Britain’s leading First World War historian

Monday, 25 August, 6-7pm, Soundings Theatre, Te Papa

In New Zealand, as elsewhere in the world, the debate is hotting up about how communities, and most specifically governments, should commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War. With millions being spent world-wide, the question is certainly being debated by many, with votes being passionately cast on both sides of the fence.

In this timely talk, Hew Strachan, one of Britain’s leading First World War historians and an outspoken military thinker, asks how in 2014 ‘should we approach the centenary of the First World War?’

Professor Hew Strachan, All Souls College. Photo courtesy of Oxford University.

It is a debate in which he has been a vocal and provocative participant in the United Kingdom throughout the build up to the centenary. Critical of the British Government’s centenary board’s approach, of which he is a member, he has asserted that if the commemorations simply rework ‘the familiar themes of remembrance, it will be repetitive, sterile and possibly even boring. If we do not emerge at the end of the process in 2018 with fresh perspectives, we shall have failed’.

‘The real challenge of the centenary will be whether we take the opportunity provided by the controversies that the first world war still generates to debate that point. If we can use this war to understand war better, to think through when we may – albeit reluctantly – have to fight and when we should not, we shall have given the commemoration of the first world war a purpose that will honour those who served in it.’

Following the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of War on 4 August 1914, how does he see his home country faring in meeting this challenge? Just how do we find new perspectives on a subject that has written about by generations of historians, has inspired numerous novels, plays, song, films and exhibitions, and become entrenched in national rhetoric for 100 years?

We hope you can join us for what promises to be a stimulating evening this coming Monday, at Soundings Theatre, Te Papa.

Hew Strachan is the Chichele Professor of the History of War at All Souls College, Oxford. He is an expert in contemporary strategic studies, as well as the First World War and the history of the British Army. He is visiting New Zealand to present a key note lecture at The Experience of a Lifetime – People, Personalities and Leaders in the First World War, a conference being held at Massey University’s Wellington campus from August 22-24.

Hew Strachan’s lecture is  presented in collaboration with Massey University and the New Zealand Defence Force.

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