The Glorious Dead? Remembering and Forgetting in British Commemorative Culture

Research output: Contribution to non-peer-reviewed publicationInternet publication


The First World War is not quite ancient history, but it is very much part of the past. All those who fought in the war have now died and even those with hazy childhood memories of the conflict are very few in number. So the ‘war to end all wars’ is no longer part of living memory. Yet in the summer of 2014, the outbreak of this seminal clash of empires was commemorated, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, across Europe and the wider world. Since then, the centenary anniversaries of many of the major milestones of the war have been marked by national governments and local communities and received extraordinary levels of popular, political and media attention. In Britain, the well-established rituals of Remembrance Sunday and the 1st of July have been imbued with yet greater symbolic weight and the Imperial War Museum has been completely reinvigorated, its lavishly overhauled galleries now offering a flawed but highly inventive and visceral impression of the British experience of the war. We’ve also seen the staging of some truly imaginative and moving commemorative projects, including the ‘Poppies in the Tower’ installation, which has become a traveling exhibition, and the remarkable ‘we’re here because we’re here’ living memorial ‘unveiled’ to mark the centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme in July. Alongside these, there have been a myriad of smaller but no less affecting community projects, which have seen schoolchildren born in the new century remember the dead in the company of senior citizens whose fathers fought in the war.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationHistorians for History
PublisherHistorians for History
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016

Cite this