Online sources for World War One
This article aims to give a synthesis of the works done by the students of the Master in European Contemporary History (MAHEC) for the preparation of the course “WW1 goes Twitter”. The students were asked to analyse and offer a list of websites on which they could find digital sources about World War One.
We will try to offer here a list of resources exploitable by others. The sources are meant to be used for our Twitter account renacting World War One (@RealTimeWW1) and this leads our analysis, because what is relevant in our perspective could be different for a more traditional historical work. First of all we should notice that these websites were found through the use of different search engines, depending on the nationality of the students (5 from Luxembourg, 3 from Belgium, 1 from France) and the languages they master. This fact highlights the absence of an unique platform where every digitalized sources could be found and reveals the great number of online resources: we are dealing with 40 different links, and only a few numbers of websites were analysed in two different students’ works. All these websites are not equal in quality, and some are clearly off-topic, so we also have to comment them in order to offer a guide through the online jungle of websites dealing with the matter of World War One.
Classification of the sources
We have decided at first to organize the different websites with the main language used. The links in French are dominant, followed by the English and the German ones. There is no real surprise in it as these languages are the ones used at the university, whereas the presence of Portuguese links is more surprising and add some originality to the list. The lack of multilingual links reveals the importance of a national perspective when it comes to offer online sources.
The study of the different works and analyses made by the students encouraged us to provide a ranking of the websites, through the use of the different aspects:
– Quality: Are the pictures in a good quality ? Are the articles well digitalized ? How are the meta-data ?
– Quantity: How many pictures, articles, newspapers can we find ? How many “tweets” can we make by using this website ? On how many different subjects ?
– Reliability: Can we “trust” the author of the website ? Is it an institutional website or an amateur one ?
– Relevance: Are the sources online useful for our purpose: feeding a Twitter account ?
– Originality: Can we find original sources ? A different perspective ? Or is it a database of the most iconic pictures of World War One ?
Links in French (18 websites)
Fonds Première Guerre mondiale sur le site de l’ECPAD: This website is based on the French Ministry of Defense Archives and offers sources of a great quality and reliability. Nevertheless, it is mainly French pictures or videos or about the situation in France during the war.
La Médiathèque du Patrimoine français: This part of the “Patrimoine français” website is dedicated to the Balkan Wars and offers pictures which are most of the time unknown and used, especially when it comes to non-historian students. We can find these original pictures in a great number and with lots of meta-data.
Anovi – La Première Guerre mondiale (1902-1932): This website offers a bigger look over the period, beyond the geographical limits and usual subjects. It is divided into several parts with scientific articles, a geographical section, a complete chronology and a statistical part. The most interesting section relates to the detailed analysis of official and diplomatic documents.
CRID: The “Collectif de Recherche International et de Débat sur la Guerre de 1914-1918” is a website proposing a lot of testimonies and scientific or instructive texts. Testimonies are classified according to the publication date or the type of witness. This great quantity of sources makes possible to work on various interesting and original subjects like on civilians, art or prisoners.
Bibliotheca Andana: This link deals with the role of the small town of Andenne in Belgium during the Great War. We can find lots of interesting sources, such as texts or pictures, but only on a very specific topic.
La Première Guerre mondiale sur l’Encyclopédie Larousse: This link is actually an article from the online encyclopedia Larousse which presents the Great War especially from a French perspective. Some pictures highlight the main points of the topic.
Site amateur sur les parcours de régiments: We can find an interesting gallery of pictures on this website, but only on French army corpses. If the website is an amateur one, the construction and classification are clear and well done. However, this link is only useful for someone working on this specific topic.
Mémoire des hommes: Here there is a large quantity of individual papers for soldiers who died during the conflict with also the administrative newspaper of their unit.
Ansen’s blog: It’s just a rewritten page of a specific diary. The perspective is limited.
Etienne Jacqueau’s website: Like previously this website is limited on a letter of a specific soldier to his wife.
Histoire-image: There is just pics, paintings and sketch regarding the period.
Collection amateur de photos sur la guerre 14-18: Even if one can find many pictures on this amateur website, the meta-data are only a quick description. There is a serious lack of elements such as date, author or origin. We can also add that we need to explore the website entirely if we are looking for something specific. The website is not useful for a historical work.
La Chambre du Parlement belge: This is the official website of the Belgian Parliament. Its presence of this site in this work is still a mystery.
Musée de la Grande Guerre de Ypres: The website of Ypres’ Museum in Belgium is an interesting one but when it comes to online sources, it is not a relevant one.
Histoire à la carte: The website contains only stylized cards with no sources.
Hérodote 14-18: There are no sources but only a chronology.
Blog Histoire 67: The site doesn’t show any sources and is full of anachronisms.
Commémorer 14-18: This link is a commemorative website without utility for the project.
Links in English (8 websites)
The Great War Archive of Oxford University: This is probably one the most useful website found by the students. Here the sources are well classified, in a great number and with many key-words. The meta-data are often complete and the reliability of the University of Oxford is not to be proved.
BBC – History: World War One: Here we have an interesting link with many sources especially audio ones which is quite original. The fact it is a part of the BBC website shows quality and reliability.
FirstWorldWar.com: Here again a very interesting link but with a lack of online sources. There is only a few of them.
World War One Document Archive: If we can find many sources on this website, the main issue is that they are only transcriptions and the lack of meta-data is also problematic. To use with caution.
Turkey in the First World War: This website deals with the question of “Turkey” during the Great War. If it informs us on many unknown aspects and offers several original sources, we have to be careful with some positions taken by the author. For example, can we talk about Turkey ? Shouldn’t it be about the Ottoman Empire ?
J-F. MacDonald and World War One: Many sources are available on this website but they are only transcriptions. Unfortunately, we can not use them for our project on Twitter.
Encyclopaedia Britannica: World War One: This website is actually an article of the online version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica dealing with WW1. There is a few pictures or videos concerning our subject, but even if they have some meta-data, they are really “classical” items.
New-Zealand and the First World War: A very highlighting article about World War One and New-Zealand but there is no online sources on it.
Links in German (5 websites)
University of Heideberg: Even if this sub-section of the homepage of the University of Heidelberg concentrates exclusively on the archives of newspapers from the First World War period there is a big quantity of primary sources of good quality.
University of Osnabrück: The website of the Osnabrück university offers an original way of thinking the First World War by proposing a collection with more than 1200 German postcards.
Erster-weltkrieg: The website contains only pics with no references on it.
Der Erste Weltkrieg: This website doesn’t have any sources.
Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung: Same comment as the previous one.
Links in Portuguese (4 websites)
Portugal e a Primeira Guerra Mundial: Unfortunately this website does not give us online sources for our subject.
Or Portal da Historia de Portugal: Same thing applies here.
Historia dos tempos: There are only pics with a lot of anachronisms.
Area militar: The website presents only diplomatic texts between Germany and Portugal with no references or sources in it.
Europeana 1914-1918: The homepage of this website is presented like an online archive. The particularity in this one is the fact that the sources are posted by random people. Everybody can post primary sources like pics, diaries, letters or other items which will then be available for everyone. These primary sources are commented by the person who posted them. The project was initiated by the University of Oxford which grants the website a certain reliability.
Musée de la Guerre du Canada: Here we have a very interesting website when it comes to online sources. The authors offer plenty of these sources, about daily life, soldiers or even simple objects. The role of Canada during the Great War is still an original point of view and the fact that this website is both in French and in English is really useful for our project.
The Heritage of the Great War: This is also an interesting website which offers many pictures taken during World War One. It is not always easy to find what we are looking for but the galleries offer a great number and a great variety of pictures.
Premiere Guerre mondiale 1914-1918: This one gives only few testimonies and pics. The content is limited.
Commemoration of WW1 in Belgium: This is a website which deals the Commemoration of the Great War in Belgium but offers no online sources.
DESSILLY, Dimitri & LEGAY, Richard — MAHEC – 1ère année