The British centennial commemoration of the First World War

Article English OPEN
Edward M. Spiers (2015)
  • Publisher: Universidad Pontificia Comillas
  • Journal: Comillas Journal of International Relations (issn: 2386-5776)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.14422/cir.i02.y2015.006
  • Subject: International relations | recuerdo | amapolas | memoria nacional | Heritage Lottery Funding | JZ2-6530 | gobierno británico

This article reviews the course and development of British planning to commemorate the First World War. It highlights the fact that any commentary on that war in Britain has to take account of the prevailing cultural norms. These norms have evolved through much of the poetry, literature, theatre and film of the past century, and have come to represent the war as essentially futile, with an horrendous loss of life, best commemorated through the annual acts of remembrance for the fallen. As this national memory paid scant attention to the many works of revisionist military history written over the last generation, military historians were among the more sceptical when the UK government belatedly announced plans (and derisory levels of government funding) to commemorate the First World War. However, the Heritage Lottery Fund has filled the funding gap with £57 million, enabling all manner of projects to flourish whether of national, regional or local significance. By 4-5 August 2014, over 2,330 events, including 519 exhibitions, had been held, and numerous events marked the outbreak of the war. Poppies were again to the fore, most notably the 800,000 ceramic poppies, one for each fallen serviceman, at the Tower of London.
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