Chris Caden

I am a recent graduate from the University of Leeds where I completed an MA in Modern History. I chose to study History because I have always been fascinated with the past, and its uses (and misuses) in contemporary political narratives. For conflicts to persist historical narratives are frequently deployed as effective mobilising tools. Yet a mature understanding of the past can also positively contribute to conflict resolution.  Fittingly, I chose to study conflicts which pose broader questions about how people see themselves in relation to others - conflicts which see the persistence of nationalism, religion and other important questions of identity.

The historiography of the Israel-Palestine conflict reflects the passion and urgency of the political arguments on the topic. For that reason, its study develops important skills which are valuable to history students. This is partly why I see the Parallel Histories project as such a valuable educational project. Combined with this is a new approach to the opposing narratives. The histories can feel as if two conversations are going on which are irreconcilable in their positions. By examining both, the two arguments can be respected by the student as they navigate a passage towards forming their own conclusions.

My research on this project will be on the curious instances of British army and police deserters who fought in Arab or Israeli units in the 1948 War. By staying to fight instead of returning home they are something of an anomaly in British colonial withdrawals, which I believe is demonstrative of the passionate responses the conflict invokes. My aim is to highlight important aspects of the British experience in the closing days of the Mandate and by looking at both groups, I believe it is well suited to the comparative nature of Parallel Histories.