Jeremy Paxman with LJMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Weatherill and Sir Jon Murphy
Journalist, author and TV presenter Jeremy Paxman, delivered the latest LJMU Roscoe Lecture, using research, humour and political insight to explore ‘How the First World War changed everything’. His lecture considered the causes of WW1, and the context behind how the country found itself obliviously walking into an event that would change it forever.
A series of photographs provided by Paxman illustrated the points made in his lecture, including one of his great uncle when he joined up to serve in the Great War. It was this photograph, and his uncle’s story and death in the War that first led to Paxman’s interest in the subject, and his need to explore this period in time and its effect on us today.
Paxman’s insight encouraged the audience to reconsider common facts and opinions they had heard about the First World War. This included dispelling the myth, believed by many, that the War would be over by Christmas 1914, and that signing up was an easy process. The actual truth was that even something as minor as receiving poor dental treatment meant many were rejected by the army. He talked the audience through the methods of conscription, the appeals to patriotism and ‘pals brigades,’ and the story behind the most famous military face of that time, Lord Kitchener.
Paxman’s research, knowledge and straight-forward style, as often seen in his 25 years as anchor-man of the BBC’s nightly news analysis programme, Newsnight, brought fresh insight to the well-told tales of the First World War. This allowed the audience to really consider what the War must have been like for both those in the trenches, and those at home, with a poignant reminder that nearly every household in the country had an empty space at the dinner table by the end of the conflict.
“The lasting memorial to the First World War is our country today,” Paxman stated, “It’s in the opinions that are now respected and listened to, how the government must answer the people, in women’s rights, how we care for people and in popular democracy.”