• The Open University

World War 1: Trauma, Memory, Controversy

Explore the traumatic effects of WW1 on soldiers and civilians. Discover how we remember and debate the history of this war.

27,618 enrolled on this course

World War 1: Trauma, Memory, Controversy

27,618 enrolled on this course

  • 4 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Open level

Find out more about how to join this course

More than a hundred years after it ended, the First World War has lost none of its fascination. It was a war of unprecedented scale and brutality, with countless casualties. It also left a poisonous legacy for the twentieth century and beyond. Many of the issues that were left unresolved in 1918 would lead to another world war in 1939.

In this free online course, you will study the social, cultural, medical and diplomatic history of the First World War. Topics range from physical and mental trauma suffered by combatants to the traumatic experiences of civilians in wartime.

We will investigate the difficulties historians face in establishing accurate figures for war losses. We will explore expressions of grief and trauma through art and literature. We will ask why some nations remember the dead with poppies and why there are certain sites of remembrance that we still turn to today. And we will explore the contested origins of the First World War.

While studying this course, you will learn to conduct your own research into First World War casualty statistics and explore different sources to help you evaluate their usefulness and accuracy. And you will be able to discuss your thoughts with other learners on an online platform (if you choose to do so).

Welcome to our course.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 2 seconds ANNIKA MOMBAUER: Welcome to World War 1– trauma, memory, controversy. I’m Annika and I’m your guide as we study the impact of the First World War. You will study and explore the trauma suffered by soldiers and civilians alike. This course will help you understand and contextualise the brutality of this war. And to empathise with those who suffered as a result of it. We will ask, what is remembered of this war? And explore its long-term consequences. How do the outcomes still affect us today? And why is there still a controversy about why it started? We begin our explorations by focusing on the physical and mental casualties of the war. Then we will explore how this war affected the lives of civilians.

Skip to 1 minute and 1 second After the war, people dealt with what had happened in different ways. We’ll study how writers and artists attempted to come to terms with the experience. And finally, we’ll explore the long controversy around the question, why did the war break out in the first place? Over the next four weeks, some renowned historians will share their research and analysis with you. And you’ll discover the devastating impact of the war on individuals and on whole societies. While this might seem like a sobering learning experience, it’s also a moving story that’s lost none of its fascination more than a century after it began.

What topics will you cover?

• The effects of the war on combatants and civilians

• New types of injuries and how victims and medical professionals dealt with them

• Casualty figures and how to interrogate them

• Artistic responses to the trauma of war

• How the war has been commemorated

• The debate among historians about the origins of WW1

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Investigate casualty statistics and conduct your own research into war losses
  • Evaluate visual and poetic historical sources to understand how the First World War affected art and culture
  • Discuss your thoughts with other learners on our online platform
  • Explore various types of physical and mental trauma suffered by those who experienced the war
  • Assess the difficulties historians face in establishing accurate figures about war losses
  • Interpret historical propaganda and eyewitness accounts to understand the civilian experience of war
  • Reflect on the causes of the First World War

Who is the course for?

This course is suitable for anyone with an interest in finding out about the effects of the First World War (1914–1918) on societies. It is not necessary to have prior knowledge of the subject. Teachers might particularly benefit from studying this course.

Who will you learn with?

Lead Educator: World War One: Trauma, Memory, Controversy.
Professor in History at the Open University, UK.

Who developed the course?

The Open University

As the UK’s largest university, The Open University (OU) supports thousands of students to achieve their goals and ambitions via supported distance learning, helping to fit learning around professional and personal life commitments.

  • Established

  • Location

    Milton Keynes, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save


For the first two months. Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$129/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 4 Jul 2023

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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