Inaugural Lecture: Professor Jessica Meyer

The School of History invites you to join us for Professor Meyer's inaugural lecture, entitled 'No(Wo)man's Land: Writing history at the intersections of gender and First World War Studies'.

The lecture will be followed by an interactive Q&A, and a celebratory reception for those attending in person.

Abstract

In 2014, at the start of the centenary commemorations of the First World War, broadcaster Kate Adie wrote an article in The Guardian in which she claimed that ‘the history of the war has been almost entirely written by men. Only a small number of female historians – notably Barbara Tuchman – have specialised in military subjects, while feminist academics have highlighted specific contributions made by women.’ For a feminist academic whose work in the field of First World War studies encompasses military subjects that extend beyond specific contributions of women, this inaccurate popular perception was frustrating if unsurprising. In the decade since then, the contribution of women to the field has only increased further, expanding and deepening scholarly understanding of the war, including the gender history of the war.

In this inaugural, I will explore this expansion as it has developed both in academic scholarship and public perception of the war. I will consider the ways in which the developing field of the history of masculinities has helped to shape knowledge and understanding of both men’s and women’s experiences of war, and how the gender history of the war intersects with histories of medicine and popular culture, as well as military history. I will ask what role the centenary played in driving and disseminating such work, but also the barriers that emerged to communicating complex ideas about gender history to wider audiences and how these might be overcome in future.

I will also discuss the intersecting communities of female scholarship – historians, archivists, cultural critics, administrators – whose work has shaped my own over the past two decades. In doing so, I will show how war studies, and First World War studies in particular, has developed as a particularly fruitful interdisciplinary space for the cultivation of understanding of gender history and feminist historical practice.

About Professor Meyer

Jessica Meyer complete her BA at Yale University before moving Pembroke College, Cambridge where she undertook an MPhil. in European Studies and a PhD in Modern History. After a period working in academic publishing and in temporary teaching roles, she came to Leeds in 2011 as a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow and leader of the Medicine and War strand of the Legacies of War project. In 2014 she was PI for the Yorkshire strand of the AHRC/BBC World War One at Home collaboration. In 2015 she was appointed University Academic Fellow in Legacies of War and awarded a European Research Council Starting Grant for ‘Men, Women and Care: The gendering of formal and informal caregiving in interwar Britain’. She was promoted to Associate Professor of Modern British History in 2017 and to Professor of British Social and Cultural History in 2022.
 
Jessica’s research interests sit at the intersection of the histories of gender, medicine, popular culture and the First World War. Her first monograph, Men of War: Masculinity and the First World War in Britain was published with Palgrave Macmillan in 2009 as part of the Gender and Sexualities series. Her second monograph, An Equal Burden: The men of the Royal Army Medical Corps in the First World War was published by Oxford University Press in 2019. She has published work on topics ranging from the representations of the First World War in Downton Abbey and The Archers to the significance of age and life cycle to war-disabled masculinities. She is the author of the Arms and the Medical Man research blog and co-presenter of Oh! What a Lovely Podcast which looks at the intersections of First World War studies with popular culture. She is currently working on two book manuscripts, The Return of the Soldier: The Intimate History of Demobilization in Britain after the First World War, and Men and War: A Modern Global History  for Polity Press.
 
Jessica is currently Director of Postgraduate Research Students in the School of History, having previously acted as Deputy Director of Student Education (2020-2021) and programme lead for the MAs in Health Medicine and Society (2020-2021) and Social and Cultural History (2020-2023). A founder member of the International Society for First World War Studies, she served twice as Membership Secretary, from 2008 to 2009 and again from 2015 to 2018, and as President from 2018 to 2023. During her presidency she had the honour of helping found three significant awards for emerging scholars, the Dennis Showalter Memorial Lecture, the Elizabeth Greenhalgh Award for an emerging female scholar and the Jeffrey Gray Award for international research mobility. She remains an active member of the Society, as well as of the Military Welfare History Network, whose 2024 conference she is currently helping to organise.
 
In her spare time, when not ferrying her two children to extra-curricular activities, Jessica enjoys cooking, knitting, quilting and attempting to impose some sort of order on her hilltop garden. When possible, she enjoys visiting friends and family in the UK and the US, lake and sea swimming, hill walking and theatre-going with her husband Matthew.

How to attend

Attendance is free. Please register your place for either in-person or online attendance via Eventbrite.

Online attendance

The lecture will be streamed on Zoom. The link will be shared shortly before the event, to those registered to attend online.

In-person attendance

Celebratory refreshments will be served after the lecture for those attending in person.

Image credit

Field Marshal Lord John French inspects the Glasgow Battalion, Women's Volunteer Reserve, ca. 1915. Image copyright Imperial War Museum, item Q108005. Used under non-commercial license.

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