« Rugby and World War One: an Unbreakable Bond » 7 & 8 September 2023

For almost two hundred years, sport has played an increasingly important role in world history, often at the crossroads of major events, but also in the background. Between 1914 and 1918, Lille and what is today the Hauts-de-France region was one of the major theatres of an unprecedented conflict, the First World War, which tore the whole world apart. As soldiers of many nationalities, including British, Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians, were sent to fight on the battlefields, sport took on an important dimension both at the front, as a means of recruiting troops, training them and maintaining their morale, and at the rear.

As France prepares to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023 and then the Olympic Games in 2024, the conference on « Rugby and World War One: An Unbreakable Bond » aims to examine the case of rugby during the First World War. It brings together an international panel of experts, giving a uniquely multi-national perspective on this topic. The event, which will be held in English, is organised by ESPOL (European School of Political and Social Sciences) – Université Catholique de Lille in partnership with the Musée de la Bataille de Fromelles. It aims to:

  • Analyse the role of rugby in the armed forces: in recruiting soldiers, in training them and in maintaining troop morale.
  • Investigate the role of rugby on the « home front »: on civilian entertainment and leisure activities to maintain the appearance of a « normal » civilian life.
  • Compare the circumstances in different countries: identify the similarities and differences between countries on the question of rugby.
  • Assess the socio-political impact of rugby: on the creation or adaptation of national identities, classes and gender relations.

Speakers: Michael HOLMES – Université catholique de Lille / ESPOL, France ; Albert GRUNDLINGH – Stellenbosch University, South Africa ; Guillaume VILLEMOT – Le Tribut de la Nation – Mémoires de Rugby 2023 ; Philip DINE – University of Galway, Ireland ; Joris VINCENT – Université de Lille, France ; Arnaud WAQUET – Université de Lille, France ; Greg RYAN – Lincoln University, New Zealand ; Robert DEWEY – De Pauw University, Indiana, United States of America; Dale BLAIR – Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Canberra, Australia; Lydia FURSE – De Montfort University & Consult.ltd, United Kingdom; Rob HESS – Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia; Tony Collins – De Montfort University, United Kingdom; Jake LAWTON – Liverpool Hope University, United Kingdom; Gethin MATTHEWS – Swansea University, United Kingdom; Liam O’CALLAGHAN – Liverpool Hope University, United Kingdom; Philippe DIEST – Université Catholique de Lille / FLSH, France; John KELLY – Edinburgh University, United Kingdom.

The event will take place at the Université Catholique de Lille (Louise Weiss building, 89 boulevard Vauban, 59016 Lille) on 7 and 8 September 2023.

Registration and programme can be found here below.

Provisional Programme