Monday, 30 June 2014

‘The War to End All Wars’: Commemoration in 2014

2014 marks 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, a milestone in world history that claimed the lives of almost 17 million people worldwide. In the following guest blog post our resident historian, Kate Smith, takes a closer look at how both the conflict and its commemoration are represented in our online archive.
The Great War has long since played a significant role in our historical memory but this year Britain is planning several events to commemorate this special anniversary. It is important to remember the bravery of those who fought for four long years and to learn from the lessons of the past.

The centenary has led to a flurry of papers focusing on the commemoration of the war. Remembering War, Resisting Myth: Veteran Autobiographies and the Great War in the Twenty-first Century’ examines the reconstruction of the First World War in the autobiographies of the last two surviving British veterans; these men committed their memories to paper shortly before their deaths in 2009. This article, recently published in the Journal of War & Culture Studies, explores the reception of their testimonies and assesses the extent to which their accounts reinforce or resist mythic narratives of the Great War. Trott also considers whether a diversity of perspectives will remain now that the war has almost entirely passed out of living memory and the affect this will have on popular culture in the future.
An article published earlier this year in the Journal of Conflict Archaeology, entitled Commemoration of the Great War: A Global Phenomenon or a National Agenda?', explores a different aspect of commemoration. Van der Auwera and Schramme analyse the specific national sensitivities related to the commemoration of the First World War and investigate the reasons why some states around the world commemorate it more strongly than others.

Many noteworthy and thought-provoking papers have transpired about all aspects of the war including the causes, military strategy, the Home Front, literature and science. However, it appears that, as time passes, our understanding of the First World War will rely more than ever on archaeology. The Editors of Journal of Conflict Archaeology, Tony Polland and Iain Banks, explain the growing interest in the archaeology of the First World War in 'Not so Quiet on the Western Front: Progress and Prospect in the Archaeology of the First World War’. They conclude with the following:

“Thanks to the work of a small number of archaeologists in recent years… we now have the tools to do the archaeology of the First World War justice, what lies ahead is the difficult task of ensuring that they are applied as part of a meaningful research framework and not just for the delectation of television audiences or as a means of removing problematic barriers to development. Accomplishing this is perhaps one of the most exciting and perhaps difficult challenges facing conflict archaeology today.”
Maney Publishing has made 100 articles free to download to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the outbreak of WW1 >

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