Weekend-long Great War Symposium begins at BRLSI

Friday 17th October: BRLSI’s weekend-long Symposium ‘The Great War: Responses and Reactions’ began with a lecture on The Origins of The Great War by Professor Keith Robbins, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Wales. The Symposium continues until Sunday (19th), with speakers including Paul Cornish of the Imperial War Museum and BBC documentary maker Richard Van Emden, plus an exhibition of World War One memorabilia.
Prof Robbins (right) told a packed Elwin Room audience how a belief in 19th century notions of balance of power, and an ignorance of what 20th century war would be like, led the great powers of Europe to walk into a conflict that would change the continent forever.
Germany, then a newly-formed nation, was envious of the global empires of Britain and France, and wary of Russia’s backing for the Slavic people of Serbia. Britain, meanwhile, had problems of its own in Ireland, which led Germany to underestimate its willingness to fight in Europe. In the end it was concern about Germany dominating a post-war Europe, rather than support for its allies, that made Britain enter the war. However all the powers, accustomed to centuries of conflict as part of life, underestimated the scale and horror of the world’s first mechanised war.
The Great War: Responses and Reactions, part of BRLSI’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, examines the war’s cultural, artistic and social legacy. Saturday and Sunday see eight more lectures on subjects ranging from Medical Improvements for Wounded Soldiers to The Importance of the Versailles Peace Treaty. A full programme is available online here. Each lecture costs £5 (£3 for BRLSI members and students).