THE MNEMONIC TURN IN THE CULTURAL HISTORIOGRAPHY OF BRITAIN'S GREAT WAR Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • How the First World War has come to be remembered has, over the past two decades, become a major concern for British historians, eclipsing earlier scholarly preoccupations with war guilt and its political consequences, the impact of the war on social structure and the status of women, and the conflict's role in the rise of the modernist aesthetic. This article surveys both scholarship on the cultural legacy of the First World War in Britain and the debates about how the memory of this war – the ‘Great War’ – has either retarded its consideration ‘as history’ or spurred new, if not always entirely successful, modes of inquiry into the relationships among war, society, and culture. The article argues that memory of the Great War must itself be treated as history; that the meaning of that memory should be placed within the context of the changing events, ideas, and identities of the entire twentieth century; and that more scholarly attention needs to be directed at the popular reception of representations of the Great War by the population at large, and at the power of the various forms of media by which those representations have been conveyed to their audience and have thereby shaped memory of the conflict.

publication date

  • December 2005