In the years after the First World War, countries, cities and individuals had to regenerate and rebuild themselves on an extraordinary scale. From the devastation and loss, a new world emerged. Through a rich collection of photographs, discover the innovation and resourcefulness that shaped the rebuilding and regeneration of the world post-war, revealing resilience and creativity in times of great change.
Highlighting the ways in which individual lives, landscapes and national identities recovered, evolved and even flourished in the aftermath of war, this extensive collection of over 130 black and white photographs, alongside documents and objects examine renewal and the complex process of reconstructing a home, a town or a continent.
From images of refugees returning to ruined homes, through the reconstruction of Ypres, to battlefields depicting the villages that ‘died for France’ and were never rebuilt, these rarely seen photographs from this little-explored time period reveal the extent of destruction and change in war-torn Europe and beyond.
The exhibition charts the initial optimism that followed the end of the First World War, as well as the realities of displacement, demobilisation, social change and the fall of empires.
Many individuals found themselves in new nations as borders were re-drawn and empires disbanded, but while the devastating effects of war were felt on both sides, developments in materials and new technologies also led to innovations. Military equipment was repurposed for civilian use and advances in medicine and plastic surgery enabled the reconstruction of the human body.
Both surprising and inspiring, this exhibition reveals the strength, inventiveness and brilliance of people during times of unrivalled social and political change.
Renewal: Life after the First World War in Photographs is part of Making a New World, a season of innovative exhibitions, installations and immersive experiences at IWM London and IWM North which explore how the First World War has shaped the society we live in today.