Lydia Manley

Lydia Manley

Department of English Literature
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD title: Remembering the First World War on the British Stage 1919-1939
SupervisorsDr David Griffith and Professor Deborah Longworth
PhD English Literature


  • BA English (University of Birmingham)
  • MA English Literature and Culture (University of Birmingham)


My doctoral research has developed out of my longstanding interest in how writers of the interwar period represented both their experiences of war and its aftermath. In 2017 I won a College Undergraduate Research Scholarship to work with Dr David Griffith on the reception of war plays written during the so-called War Books Boom (1928-1932). The Scholarship introduced me to the theatre and WW1 collections at the University of Birmingham, the British Library and the Imperial War Museum. It allowed me to begin to perceive the bias Journey’s End continues to receive in academic and public discussions about theatre of the war. My ability to successfully use archival research to inform discussions on aspects of the war in drama and life writing of the 1920s and early 1930s led to me receiving firsts in three final-year projects, and contributed to my overall first.

At MA level I extended my interests into literature of the inter-war period with essays on modernism and interwar publishing history, and a dissertation on the fiction of Rose Macaulay (1881-1958).  My dissertation advanced current academic attempts to illuminate Macaulay’s centrality  to inter-war English literature and culture. It explored how six of Macaulay’s novels, published between 1916-1926, can be seen as aids to help readers decipher contemporary political debates by translating governmental bills and acts into a more accessible and engaging format and in doing so encouraged readers to reflect upon the ethics of political propositions.  This was awarded a distinction and led to the achievement of an overall distinction in my MA.


My project offers a sustained assessment of how British theatre remembered the First World War between 1919 and 1939. My primary concern is to show how an ongoing dialectic about appropriate forms of memorialisation and a conviction to tell the ‘truth’ about the war gave rise to a body of work representing a wide range of social, political and gendered perspectives. Drawing on literary and theatre studies, my project will demonstrate how interwar theatre played a seminal role in recording individual and collective memories and provided a necessary cultural space for interrogation of the war’s meaning, a process that continues to the present day. I aim to extend the range of plays under discussion to include examples of one-act and female-authored plays, translations of European drama, and works produced in the mid-late 1930s. I also will make use of reviews, readers’ reports, and other contemporary documents. The focus upon the processes of composition and upon contemporary reception, locating a greater diversity of plays than hitherto studied in their precise historical moment, represents an important intervention into ongoing debates in academia and beyond of the theatre’s role in the construction of memory of the war and of national identity.