Grove City College History Professor Dr. Robert Clemm presented a paper last month at the International Society for First World War Studies’ “Landscapes of the Great War: imagination, representation, experience” conference in Trento and Padua, Italy.
Clemm presented “’Whereon thou standest is holy ground’: Perceptions of Africa in World War I,” which is a comparative examination of how European soldiers understood the landscape of Africa. British and German soldiers believed Africa to be an “unknown” land that served as both an active combatant against them, in terms of dangerous fauna and logistical challenges, as well as land of untapped beauty, Clemm determined.
“While we are well familiar with the ‘lunar landscape’ imagery of the Western Front,” Clemm said, “what I uncovered was that Victorian attitudes of a virginal and exotic Africa remained prevalent despite the many dangers of combat.”
Clemm joined the faculty in 2012. He holds a Ph.D. in military history from The Ohio State University and his scholarly focus is on colonial conflict in Africa before and during World War I.
The International Society for First World War Studies was established in 2001 to build an international network of scholars to support the historical study of the First World War. Clemm plans on developing his paper further for publication in the Society’s journal.