Beneath the Killing Fields of the Western Front still lies a hidden landscape of industrialised conflict virtually untouched since 1918. This subterranean world is an ambiguous environment filled with material culture that that objectifies the scope and depth of human interaction with the diverse conflict landscapes of modern war. Covering the military reasoning for taking the war underground, as well as exploring the way that human beings interacted with these extraordinary alien environments, this book provides a more all-encompassing overview of the Western Front. The underground war was intrinsic to trench warfare and involved far more than simply trying to destroy the enemy’s trenches from below. It also served as a home to thousands of men, protecting them from the metallic landscapes of the surface.With the aid of cutting edge fieldwork conducted by the author in these subterranean locales, this book combines military history, archaeology and anthropology together with primary data and unique imagery of British, French, German and American underground defences in order to explore the realities of subterranean warfare on the Western Front, and the effects on the human body and mind that living and fighting underground inevitably entailed.
The poppy is the enduring symbol of the First World War, an object that embodies a hundred years of attitudes towards the world’s first great conflict. Yet the flower’s association with warfare pre-dates 1914 and its legacy continues today. An intensely powerful object, it has been appropriated by many, employed to justify war and to highlight its futility.All objects have a biography and the poppy’s is one as galant as any from the war. Yet as we enter a world dominated by social media and 24hr news broadcasts, the poppy is again becoming politicised, publicised,diminished and reified.
This book examines the poppy as an object of modern conflict, explaining its social life and showing how it has matured as an object of memory. Using full colour imagery and concise writing Poppyganda explores the past and the future of this most complex, yet simple, of flowers.
You can listen to me discussing the book with Georgina Godwin at Monocle 24 by clicking here. Below is an excerpt from the Introduction, so if you like it then to purchase please click on the book cover above.
Chapter 5: Picturing War: An intimate memorial to a lost soldier of the First World War (Matthew Leonard)
The new interdisciplinary study of modern conflict archaeology has developed rapidly over the last decade. Its anthropological approach to modern conflicts, their material culture and their legacies has freed such investigations from the straitjacket of traditional ‘battlefield archaeology’. It offers powerful new methodologies and theoretical insights into the nature and experience of industrialised war, whether between nation states or as civil conflict, by individuals as well as groups and by women and children, as well as men of fighting age. The complexities of studying wars within living memory demand a new response – a sensitised, cross-disciplinary approach which draws on many other kinds of academic study but which does not privilege any particular discipline. It is the most democratic kind of archaeology – one which takes a bottom-up approach – in order to understand the web of emotional, military, political, economic and cultural experiences and legacies of conflict. These 18 papers offer a coherent demonstration of what modern conflict archaeology is and what it is capable of and offers an intellectual home for those not interested in traditional ‘war studies’ or military history, but who respond to the idea of a multidisciplinary approach to all modern conflict.
Chapter 3: Assaulting the senses – life and landscape beneath the Western Front (Matthew Leonard)
Modern Conflict and the Senses investigates the sensual worlds created by modern war, focusing on the sensorial responses embodied in and provoked by the materiality of conflict and its aftermath. The volume positions the industrialized nature of twentieth-century war as a unique cultural phenomenon, in possession of a material and psychological intensity that embodies the extremes of human behaviour, from total economic mobilization to the unbearable sadness of individual loss. Adopting a coherent and integrated hybrid approach to the complexities of modern conflict, the book considers issues of memory, identity, and emotion through wartime experiences of tangible sensations and bodily requirements. This comprehensive and interdisciplinary collection draws upon archaeology, anthropology, military and cultural history, art history, cultural geography, and museum and heritage studies in order to revitalize our understandings of the role of the senses in conflict.