Never Such Innocence: British Images of the First World War, an exhibit at the Herbert Hoover Memorial Exhibit Pavilion, features two approaches to engaging the British in the First World War (1914–18): one by the British government in thousands of posters and the other, nonofficial war art, poetry, and photographs by disillusioned British soldiers. Members of the class History and the Arts: Modern Britain, taught by Stanford history professor Peter Stansky, provided the text and chose the images for the exhibition.
Because Britain did not introduce conscription until 1916, the country needed volunteers. Urged on by images and texts that promoted duty, the protection of women and children, manliness, and patriotism, more than two million men enlisted. Once the volunteers had spent time in the trenches, however, the war, with its anonymous death by firepower and clouds of poisonous gas, had become for them a “dance of death.”
A series of etchings in the exhibit by British artist Percy John Smith titled The Dance of Death, on loan from the Cantor Arts Center, feature the figure of death responding to the casualties on the battlefield. Another highlight of the exhibit is a display of the Wipers Times, a newspaper written mainly by the enlisted men of the Twenty-fourth Division of the British Army that satirizes their living conditions and situation. In addition, Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, loaned poetry texts for the exhibit. All other materials are from the collections of the Hoover Institution Library and Archives.
The exhibit will be open to the public through March 1, 2008, in the Herbert Hoover Memorial Exhibit Pavilion, next to Hoover Tower, and is free of charge. Pavilion hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For more information, go to current exhibits or contact 650-723-3563.
Images from the exhibit are available on request.