The story of men from both sides of Northern Ireland’s Protestant-Catholic divide who fought side by side in the British Army during World War I will be presented at Duquesne University on Thursday, Oct. 21, at 7:30 p.m.
The annual history forum will feature Dr. Richard Grayson, an expert in the history and politics of the 20th century, who will deliver Belfast Boys: Uniting a Divided City During World War I, in the Power Center Ballroom on Duquesne’s campus. Grayson’s lecture promises to challenge popular perceptions of the war and explain why remembrance of the war remains so controversial in Belfast to this day.
The presentation, which is based on Grayson’s book Belfast Boys: How Unionists and Nationalists Fought and Died Together in the First World War, will relate the experiences of Protestant and Catholic men from Belfast in the 36th and 16th divisions at the battle of the Somme and the battle of Messines, two of the war’s bloodiest and most significant battles. Grayson also will tell the stories of Belfast men who served in other units of the army, navy and Royal Flying Corps, from the British retreat at Mons in the first weeks of the war, to the defeat of Germany and their lives afterward.
“On nearly every continent we find serious, and often violent, disagreements between different groups of people who live together in the same geographic area,” said Dr. Joseph Coohill, assistant professor of history and organizer of the event. “These conflicts have always been with us, but it is rare that people look back on similar troubles and try to learn important lessons from history. The story of what nationalists and unionists were able to do in Northern Ireland during World War I is such an example. When they were able to agree, many tensions were eased, and Professor Grayson’s research shows the significance of this experience.”
Grayson is a member of the faculty of Goldsmith’s College at the University of London and is co-editor of the journal Irish Political Studies as well as the author of numerous articles on British and Irish politics.
For more than four decades, the Department of History has hosted the annual History Forum, which invites renowned scholars to address topics of current and academic interest. The History Forum is free and open to the public, with information at http://www.duq.edu/history/forum.cfm.