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The centenary of the First World War

The centenary of the First World War provides the Society with an opportunity to commemorate a watershed in the discipline of psychology. The war marked a turning point in the development of many different areas of psychology.

This project is an opportunity to draw together different Society networks to contribute to a project that would not only allow the Society to commemorate, revisit and understand the importance of this event in world history to the development of psychology today, but also to look at how psychology contributed to the nation and society at the time.

The Society is organising a number cross-network, cross-Society events and will be adding to our events calendar as the project grows as well as developing an online resource hub. There are overarching themes for each year from 2015–2018, in order to allow us to include as much psychology as possible. We will be looking at issues such as revolution, the home front, propaganda, the role of women, psychological and physical trauma, modern psychology and its development in contributing to warfare and peace since the First World War.

Our plans

The project is to be formally launched at the 2014 BPS Annual Conference. The conference also features a theme of psychology and war and there are a number of sessions on the programme. The conference will open with keynote addresses from Professor Sir Simon Wessely, founder of the King’s Centre for Military Health Research and Ben Shephard, Military and Medical Historian.

In 2015 we will be commemorating 100 years since ‘shell-shock’ was first described in The Lancet. The Society will recognise the contribution of C S Myers, as well as exploring the latest research into PTSD and combat stress today. More generally, we will be exploring the psychology of propaganda

In 2016, we will be examining the theme of trauma. In Autumn, the Society will commemorate the centenary of the opening of the Craiglockhart War Hospital and the work of W H Rivers. Not only that, but we will be looking at trauma in a different way, to discover how the physical injuries of war helped to further our understanding of the human brain, localisation, behaviour and personality which have been key to the development of biological psychology and neuropsychology. We will also explore the psychological impact of conscription and conscientious objectors.

The year 2017 marks 100 years since the Russian Revolution. The Society will be looking at the psychology of revolution and uprisings as well as taking the opportunity to explore social revolution and the impact and legacy the war had on the home front.

In the final year of the project, 2018, our themes will be remembrance, identity and peace psychology. This capstone year will draw together the lessons of the past, pay tribute to those whose contributions helped to shape our discipline and share how those contributions influence the latest, cutting edge research in psychology.


November 2015 – Public Event

Commemorating the centenary of the publication of C.S. Myers' article in the Lancet 'A contribution to the study of shell shock...' an evening of lectures on psychology and war followed by a wine reception.

This is a free event, but places are limited so please register in advance.


Over the course of the project, we are hoping to build an online resource hub for psychology and the First World War. For now, here are some links to resources that may be of interest.

The Psychologist magazine looks at the work of Charles Samuel Myers and William Halse Rivers.

Our Origins timeline looks at the origina and impact of psychological science - see the entries for 1915 and 1917.

The Science Museum's Brought to Life site has an article on war's long-term effects.

Further information

For further information about the project or if you are a Society Member Network and would like to discuss future events, please contact the policy advisor (education).