Attend in person:
The Christmas truces on the Western Front in 1914 are a popular chapter in Britain’s shared memories of war. Tales of carols, football matches and gifts exchanged across sides tend to present these events as extraordinary and unprecedented. Yet the previous century had seen its fair share of important truces.
The Siege of Mafeking (1899-1900), during the Boer War, serves as a notable example. The Boers’ refusal to fight on Sundays, on religious grounds, resulted in regular exchanges between sides.
Drawing on sources by Black South Africans, Boer commandos, British forces and besieged townspeople, Dr Holly Furneaux will examine how these ceasefires enabled new conceptions of what it meant to be ‘the enemy’, and informed complex feelings of alliance and alienation during the conflict.
Dr Holly Furneaux is Professor of English Literature at Cardiff University. She is currently leading an AHRC project, 'Strange Meetings: Enemy Encounters 1800-2020'. This explores emotional and material exchanges across sides in literature and life-writing with attention to truces, battle aftermath, and prisoners of war. See @EnemyEncounters for the latest.
Holly’s books include 'Military Men of Feeling: Emotion, Touch and Masculinity in the Crimean War' and 'Queer Dickens: Erotics, Families, Masculinities'. She curated an exhibition - ‘Created in Conflict: Soldier Art from the Crimean War to the Present’ - at Compton Verney in 2018 and was adviser to the BBC’s 'Dickensian' (originally screened in 2015-16).