Third Conference on Languages and the First World War – Beyond the Narratives of the First World War

A few adjustments to the September 2022 conference:

It will now be a one-day conference, on 13 September. The convenors made this decision to avoid clashes with other conferences in the subject field. We will now be accepting proposals for papers up till 1 May 2022, with the draft programme being available from mid-June. The conference will be a simultaneous live and virtual event.

King’s College London

Call for Abstracts

The First World War continues to inspire academic research, professional and amateur historians alike. The first global conflict still attracts front tourism and produces a wealth of language use or cultural references in current affairs, not least the pandemic of the Spanish flu towards the end of the war and the coronavirus counterpart a century later.

The centenary period of the First World War saw a growth of scholarship in the field of the linguistic and verbal discourse of the conflict. In this global war involving journalism, a huge amount of forces’ correspondence, propaganda, and the movement of people across different regions and social classes, often from countries and empires with many languages themselves, language was an essential aspect of managing, mediating the experience and, in the aftermath, trying to make sense of the conflict. 

The third Languages and First World conference (13th September 2022) aims to extend the reach of the current narratives on the language landscapes of the First World War.

For the third Languages and First World War conference, the team is calling for 20-minute papers which seek to expand First World War scholarship in relation to its languages and immense linguistic diversity beyond the more traditional narratives.

Papers may consider:

  • beyond the Western front: any case east of the western front, from Germany over Russia to the Middle East, South and East Asia, but also Africa, New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific and more;
  • beyond Armistice: the war was not over on 11.11.1918; First World War legacy for later conflicts and crises;
  • beyond the nation: diaspora and displacement during and after the war (before is also possible if there is a clear connection with a respective wartime situation and/or after the war);
  • beyond the languages (typically covered in (euro-centric) First World War research): for example, dialects of German, regional languages and the Russian army, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese;
  • beyondness in any sense of the word: silence, for instance; narratives that are not culturally bolted on anniversaries.

Papers may also focus on specific questions similar to

  • Were there language provisions for the abandoned Stockholm Conference?
  • How was untruth communicated?
  • Were the Bryce reports on German atrocities in Belgium and on atrocities in Armenia, Weapons of Mass Destruction and resulting discourse avant la lettre?
  • Discourse in neutral countries (the Netherlands hosting Belgian refugees but Dutch people working in factories in Germany too)
  • Did the First World War create a language of geography that is still tangible today?

Please submit a short abstract and short bio (including affiliation) by email to

Abstracts (500 words in total max.) should contain:

  • Working title
  • Description of the idea
  • Countries, nations, regions and locations involved
  • Languages involved

And should include a brief bio.

Those presenting at the conference (notification by mid-February) will be asked to provide a draft chapter by July so that these are available for fellow presenters. 

A book proposal for a fourth volume will be finalised upon acceptance of abstracts.

Background to the Languages and the First World War Project

Following the publication of Trench Talk (2012) – a study of British wartime slang and new terminology – the Languages and the First World War project (LFWW) developed from meetings between a military historian, a sociolinguist and a translation scholar (Peter Doyle, Julian Walker, Christophe Declercq resp.). In developing connections and comparative models of the changes affecting language in a period of sustained international conflict, the project brought a new way of looking at societies in that conflict, and a model for looking at society in conflict in a century that was to a large extent shaped by the Great War. The project undoubtedly benefited from the increased academic and general focus brought by the centenary, and added to the depth and breadth of thinking about the ways that the twentieth century was shaped by the national, familial and personal stories of the war. Currently the project is managed by Dr Hillary Briffa, Dr Christophe Declercq, and Julian Walker.

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