Professor Lynda Mugglestone: ‘Rethinking history and historical principles: Andrew Clark and the language of the First World War’ – 19th November

The Queen Mary School of English and Drama’s Postgraduate Research Seminar


Professor Lynda Mugglestone (University of Oxford)

speaking on

‘Rethinking history and historical principles: Andrew Clark and the language of the First World War’


Thursday 19th November

Lock Keeper’s Cottage, Mile End Campus

Queen Mary University of London


That WW1 was a period marked by the failure of language has become a critical truism. It was, to quote Henry James, a period which ‘ran out of words’. Even in the Oxford English Dictionary, the period between 1914 and 918 is marked by what Joan Beal has described as a ‘trough’ of innovation, whether lexical or semantic.  War, she concludes, ‘does not stimulate lexical innovation’. The Words in War-Time Project, running at the University of Oxford, takes a different approach. Using the archival resources assembled by Andrew Clark, a historian, linguist, and writer (and village rector) between August 1914 and the late 1919, it tracks the extraordinary fertility of language and language change at this time. Clark, an erstwhile volunteer on the OED, decided to apply historical principles to language on the move in WW1, moving outside the canonical to explore language use in ephemera, news discourse, advertising, and private letters. This lecture will examine some of the results of the project so far,  as well as their implications for what we might understand about conventional readings of language  and WW1.

Lynda Mugglestone is Professor of the History of English at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford. Her publications include Talking Proper: The Rise of Accent as Social Symbol (revised ed. 2007), Lost for Words: The Hidden History of the Oxford English Dictionary (2005), Dictionaries: A Very Short Introduction (2011), and, as editor, The Oxford History of English (revised ed. 2012), and Samuel Johnson: The Arc of the Pendulum (2012). She recently completed Samuel Johnson and the Journey into Words (OUP, 2015), and is currently working on a book about language and the first world war, and running the English Words in War-Time Project at Oxford.

All are welcome.