A hundred years ago, approximately 250,000 Belgian men, women and children came to Britain after the invasion and subsequent occupation of 95% of their homeland in the opening stages of the First World War. Many of them settled during and also after the conflict, taking on jobs and becoming part of the local community. Despite this large number of people, their histories are still not very well-known. The Tracing the Belgian Refugees project is hoping to change this.
We are launching a database that will host the findings of researchers in the UK and Belgium. The database will be accessible to anyone who would like to use it to input information they have found about a Belgian refugee, and to view the information that others have shared. Communities and academics in the UK and further afield have already traced hundreds of Belgians in exile in villages, towns and cities. Our project aims to pool some of this knowledge and to provide an online resource which will help to give a bigger picture of the refugee experience. We also hope to trace some stories forward so that we can improve our knowledge of this crucial moment in international history, which is still of much importance today.
Are you interested in the history of Belgian refugees in the UK during the First World War? Have you been involved in researching them in your local area? Do you want to share your findings with other researchers and find out more? If so we’d love to hear from you.
The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and run by colleagues at the Universities of Leeds, Leuven and UCL.