Glasgow University's Great War Project

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Human lives full of vigour: remembering the First World War

By Reverend Stuart D MacQuarrie, Chaplain to the University

Glasgow University’s Great War centenary project is important to the University not simply as a historical reflection but in my view as a reflection of who we are, and where we are going. In his seminal work The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L Shirer quotes as an epigram the Spanish American philosopher Santayana who said, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ This project will draw insights about life in the University, the City of Glasgow and Scotland which relate to political, social, and cultural influences from which we can learn and perhaps apply to the present and possibly future times.

The work will take the 761 names on the Memorial plaques to be human lives full of vigour, hopes and aspirations, as are our young undergraduates, postgraduate students, alumni and staff; their lives relating to our lives.

The objectives will show how communities were affected by the Great War in the losses they faced and in the changes to the societal order which up until then, particularly for women, had been fairly rigid.

Construction of the University Memorial Chapel, completed in 1929 and financed by public subscription

Construction of the University Memorial Chapel, completed in 1929 and financed by public subscription

I believe the reason why almost the entire sum of money to build the University Chapel as a memorial to those who died, and a reminder of those who served, was raised by public subscription was a new awareness that this war needed to be remembered in all its horror of industrial warfare and how this affected civilian populations far away from the battlefields: a lesson for future generations. This project continues that spirit with the prospect of academic and cultural reflection about the type of society we wish for our children and for our age’s future generations.

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