Thomas Arnold Lecture
On Monday 3rd November, the School welcomed Dr Heather Jones, Associate Professor of International History at the London School of Economics, who delivered the inaugural Thomas Arnold Lecture as part of the School’s Great War Centenary Week. Dr Jones spoke about Industrial war and captivity: prisoners of war in the First World War. She gave staff, pupils and visitors a fascinating account of the lives of prisoners of war during the First World War, speaking about how different countries treated captured soldiers, and identifying how prisoners were made to contribute towards their captors’ war efforts.
She spoke about conditions in the PoW Labour Companies, indicating how soldiers of different ranks received different treatments: such was the boredom of some of the captive officers that they suffered from significant mental health problems, while those of lower rank at times received brutal and harsh treatment. Dr Jones also explained how crises – such as the outbreaks of typhus – were dealt with in the PoW camps. Dr Jones contrasted these conditions with the lives of PoWs on the Home Front, where prisoners were generally treated relatively well, even enjoying access to certain religious services.
Perhaps most interestingly, Dr Jones drew attention to the relatively low death rate among PoWs, and explained how some prisoners received parcels from home during their captivity. However, she also spoke about how some PoWs were encouraged to write home, detailing their negative experiences as part of a propaganda effort. She charted the at times complicated relationship between prisoners and members of the local community in which they were held.
All of those who attended were agreed that this was a fantastic lecture on prisoner experiences during the First World War, given by one of the country’s leading experts in this area. Dr Jones’ enthusiasm was infectious, and the School is very grateful to her for giving up her time to come to speak. Her lecture provoked some excellent and thoughtful questions from the assembled audience, and was followed by a drinks reception.