The remembering of major national events is bound to change over time. What makes the current British memorialising of the 1914-18 war fascinating is the way it combines fairly fixed concerns and narratives with novel voices and forms of inquiry. That makes it too an interesting case of how societies in the process of exploring their past can resist as well as embrace a deeper encounter with it.
The interest starts with the disjuncture between public and academic discourses about the 1914-18 war. The public image of what the war was like (bloody and muddy) and meant (pointless) has remained strikingly constant over the last four decades. Yet for a large part of this period - since the late 1980s - there has also been a remarkable boom in scholarship about the war which has introduced new methods. The increasing expectation that work will cross disciplinary and national boundaries has produced new understandings.
The process of digging into the huge archival deposits on the war - which remained untapped until recently, despite all the books published on the war over these nine decades - has generated a much more complex and nuanced view of many aspects of the war. These include military tactics, the connections between the battlefield and the "home front", popular mobilisation, and the phenomenon of "war enthusiasm". This work has also highlighted the degree to which earlier academic generations took post-war rhetoric as evidence of wartime realities - over, for example, such matters as the meaning of the war for women, the belief that the war was "futile", and the nature of mourning:
« Older Less Than Three... | Zilch is a nice little (flash)... Newer »
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments
Buy a Shirt