Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Thursday, November 5, 1998 Published at 12:10 GMT

'In Flanders fields the poppies blow...'

Wilfred Owen was killed just a week before the war ended

"If I thought the letter of this book would last, I might have used proper names; but if the spirit of it survives - survives Prussia - my ambition and those names will have achieved themselves fresher fields than Flanders"
Wilfred Owen, Preface, 1918

Central to modern day perceptions of World War I are the poets who seemed to speak so clearly for those who are often called the "lost generation".

World War 1:Special Section
Among the ranks of the poets are such famous names as Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, as well as many less well-known, including John McCrae, who wrote the often quoted In Flanders Fields in 1915.

Now anyone interested in studying World War I poetry and literature can access a host of manuscripts, photos and other archive material and follow "virtual seminars" on the subject at a website which has been set up by Oxford University.

The project was developed up by Dr Stuart Lee, of the university's Centre for Humanities Computing. He said that one of the reasons he set up the site was because of the popularity of literature from the period of the Great War.

[ image: People remain fascinated by the history and literature of the Great War]
People remain fascinated by the history and literature of the Great War
"It is often referred to as a changing moment in British society... and has haunted us ever since," he said.

The site draws on rare resources from Oxford University, the British Library, the Imperial War Museum, the Public Record Office, the Owen estate and the University of Texas.

Its intention is to allow students one-stop access to original material scattered around the world, which would be difficult for them to get in any other way.

Dr Lee has also developed a digital archive comprising of all the manuscripts of Wilfred Owen's war poetry, a selection of his letters and photographs and a complete run of The Hydra - the journal produced at the Craiglockhart Military Hospital where he was treated.

Dr Lee said: "The Internet is often criticised for its triviality and ephemeral nature.

[ image: Students can study copies of the poet's original manuscripts]
Students can study copies of the poet's original manuscripts
"But this project is using it to bring the memories of the World War I back to prominence, making all kinds of resources available to schools, universities, and the general public for free."

So far, many of the seminars have been used in schools and universities around the world as part of traditional courses.

And Dr Lee said that dealing with the original sources has had an impact on some scholars.

After studying a reproduction of the manuscript of Owen's powerful poem Dulce et Decorum est one student said: "I felt much closer to Owen. The drafts are evidence of the long hours he spent on each poem."

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |

Internet Links

Virtual Seminars for teaching WWI literature

The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke

Wilfred Owen

Siegfried Sasson

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

The war to end all wars

War and revolution in Russia

Lions led by donkeys?

The Christmas truce

Germany declines armistice day invite

Letters home: Becoming a man

Letters home: Forever sweethearts

Letters home: Over the top

Letters home: 'Pray for me'

Letters home: 'The real state of affairs'

The Somme: Hell on earth

Gallipoli: Heat and thirst

Verdun: Symbol of suffering

Passchendaele: Drowning in mud

My grandfather's war

Legacies of the Great War

War memorials: Lest we forget

World War I : Your stories

Huge interest in war graves website

Veterans tell of war horrors