The Great War: Personal Stories From Downing Street to the Trenches
12 June – 2 November 2014
Free to all
A display of letters and diaries that belonged to politicians, soldiers and civilians, all in some way connected with Oxford University.
Among the personal documents are letters from the Oxford alumni who served as junior officers on the western front and other parts of the empire. These reveal, not only their experiences, but also their attitudes towards the war.
Also on display, the diary of an Essex rector recording the impact of war on his community, which he passed on to the Bodleian Library at the end of each year.
Meanwhile other items from the library's collection, such as trench maps, posters, pamphlets and books – many of which were acquired during the war – provide context for these personal stories.
Leadership is a key theme of the exhibition, which includes the letters of two Prime Ministers, one brought down by the war and another whose experience as an officer in the trenches was the foundation of his political career.
While it was forbidden to record Cabinet discussions, an unauthorised diary kept by the Colonial Secretary survives. Shown here, it provides a revealing insight into Prime Minster H.H Asquith's Cabinet, as well as character sketches of some of the leading players, including Winston Churchill.