A History from Below of Appeasement and the Munich Crisis: Performance of ‘The Nervous State’

Date / time: 19 April, 12:30 pm - 3:00 pm

The history of appeasement, the successes and failures of peace initiatives in international relations, and the social history of World War II are popular topics at GCSE and A-level. They are, however, taught mainly from the perspective of history from above, with less regard for the psychological, personal, and popular experiences of living in times of acute international crisis, and the ways in which we all inevitably internalise the failures of peace.

Professor Julie Gottlieb is leading a collaborative project bringing together history teachers, academic historians and artists to explore these perspectives and introduce new sources, resources and methods into the History curriculum.

We warmly invite individuals and groups (we’d be especially keen to receive bookings from Key Stage 4 and 5 historians and their teachers) to a free afternoon of immersive learning – featuring a live performance of The Nervous State – a new play written by renowned playwright Nicola Baldwin, in collaboration with Professor Gottlieb – which dramatizes F.L. Lucas’s non-fiction account of the year leading up to the outbreak of World War II, Journal Under the Terror, 1938 (1939). Taking the form of diary entries recording Lucas’s daily experience under the shadow of the approaching conflict, the text is a written testimony of the affective impacts of public crisis on the private lives of individuals during the Munich Crisis and the wider Appeasement period. A literary account of a personal history, it chronicles the impacts of these stresses on everyday life; documenting their effects on Lucas’s marriage, and on the mental health of his friends and collaborators, including the nervous breakdown of his wife, the artist and sculptor Prudence Wilkinson.

The performance will lead into Q&A with Nicola Baldwin and the actors, then on to immersive workshop sessions. This interactive experience will get participants to engage with new perspectives and approaches, looking at history from the bottom up – reflecting on how we think about times of crisis and ‘history from below’.

We have funding available to help cover travel expenses and would particularly welcome funding applications from school groups.

More information about the event, the schedule, and the booking form can be found on our event webpage:

You can also view a new short film about the making of ‘The Nervous State’ on the University of Sheffield Player: