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Wittenberg Professor Pens Book On The Role Of Civilians In World War I

September 3, 2010  
 Filed in Headlines, Research

Springfield, Ohio – Years of meticulous research have culminated in the release of Wittenberg University Professor of History Tammy Proctor’s fourth book, Civilians in a World at War, 1914-1918, on Aug. 30.

Proctor said the new book examines ways in which ordinary people were drawn into warfare in the 20th century, and it also looks at the development of things that have become commonplace in our understanding of warfare, such as aerial bombing of civilians, internment camps and humanitarian aid.

Although Proctor has always been interested in this era – her previous books, Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War (2003), Scouting for Girls: A Century of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (2009) and On My Honour: Guiding and Scouting in Interwar Britain (2002), have focused on the time period as well – it was two experiences that she had in 2001 that really brought out her passion of that era once again.

First, Proctor presented a paper at a 2001 conference in Lyon, France, where she first began to think about the transnational experiences of war. Just two days later, a second experience brought the idea for the book together.

“I returned from the conference on Sept. 9, 2001, and had barely recovered from the flight when the attacks of 9-11 [occurred],” Proctor said. “Over the next two years, I watched as war in Afghanistan and Iraq dominated U.S. headlines.”

These two events sparked many questions for Proctor, and a search for answers began.

“I wondered where our contemporary notions of warfare and civilians developed,” she said. “Why were civilian contractors carrying out the work of war in Iraq, and why were so many Afghan and Iraqi people considered ‘collateral damage’ in the conflict?  How did volunteer armies on multiple tours of duty deal with the strain of war and how did they bridge the gap to their civilian lives?”

She decided to look into these questions by examining the civilian experience in World War I, which Proctor calls “a formative moment in the modern history of warfare.” While her interest in the subject was sparked in 2001, she didn’t get the chance to begin her research until a few years later.

“I researched the primary sources for the book during my sabbatical in 2004-05 and in subsequent summer research trips,” she said.

The book is designed to appeal to diverse audiences from undergraduates to general readers, and it brings together in one volume a summary of the global changes wrought by the 1914-1918 conflict. As Proctor writes in her conclusion, a civilian history must examine “not just the munitions worker behind the lines of the nurse on the hospital train, but the citizen-soldier or laundress at the front, the civilian behind wire, and the refugees clogging the roads to the trenches.” Civilians in a World at War, 1914-1918 illuminates these stories.

Proctor, who was recently named the H. Orth Hirt Professor of History, has been a Fulbright scholar in Belgium and has presented her work in multiple countries. She has taught world, modern European and women’s history at Wittenberg since 1998, where she presently serves as Department Chair. A native of Kansas City, Mo., Proctor received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and history from the University of Missouri in 1990 and her master’s and doctoral degrees in history from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Written By: Victoria Parker ’12 and Ryan Maurer

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