What topic are you working on for your masters degree or doctorate?
My doctoral dissertation examines the role that prosthetics played in the reconceptualization of ideas of belonging, following the First World War. Scholars have recently begun to focus on the “international moment” of the postwar period and prostheticization—achieved through the sharing of rehabilitative ideas and technologies across borders—provides a lens through which to view this moment, to interrogate the nature of postwar internationalism. The decisions involved in the design, delivery and procurement of prosthetic devices in France, Britain and Canada serve as signs of competing postwar visions for the reconstruction of bodies, nations, and the international order. I argue that the western body was central to postwar internationalism and that choices about rehabilitative products and processes were symptomatic of how nations imagined themselves both individually and as part of an international community.
Why did you decide to work on the First World War?
Part of the historian’s task is to explain change over time and the Great War has long been recognized as an event that “changed everything.” While this is in many ways true, the First World War and the postwar period also exhibited notable continuities with the prewar order. I find this tension between rupture and continuity incredibly intriguing and its breadth and depth—impacting politics, gender relations, economics, art, culture and international relations—provide endless points of entry for gaining a deeper understanding of the ways that societies both change and cope with that change.
Which is your favourite book on the First World War and why?
My favourite book on the First World War is Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age. The book, not without its faults, is well-crafted and eminently readable. It was one of the first books that I read on the Great War and it raised a lot of questions that spurred me to a deeper involvement in the literature. I find that I return to it often.