Article

Commemoration

Mary Kathryn Barbier

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online February 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0003
Commemoration

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Societies commemorate past events in different ways, and in many cases, decisions about how to honor those who fought and died, as well as those who survived, are contested ones. There are many manifestations of the rituals of commemoration, including monuments of varying sizes, songs such as “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” poems and other forms of literature, parades such as those on Veterans’ Day or Memorial Day, festivals, fireworks displays on the Fourth of July and other important days, and moments of silence. The Gettysburg battlefield is littered with monuments—small, unimposing ones and large, attention-grabbing ones. Landscapes can be dominated or shaped by monuments, such as the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium, or the Battle of the Somme Memorial at Thieval. Memorials can be both temporary and permanent. Some are stark, while others overwhelm the viewer with multiple images. Numerous factors shape commemorations. One factor that determines the ritual is the nature of the event that is being memorialized. Because battles and wars have multiple effects on society, it is perhaps not surprising that decisions about commemorating these events are frequently contentious. In some cases, major conflicts ultimately shape the future identity of a nation. Such is the case with World War I and Great Britain. The books and articles included here reflect interest in these commemorations. Authors argue that what is included in commemorations is just as important as what is omitted. While some of the authors present superficial views of war memorials, others delve deeper and seek the meaning of the images and texts used. Many endeavor to discern what the rituals and memorials say about the people who construct them and how these commemorations shape a nation’s or a people’s identity. These books and articles are about the legacy of war, about remembering and honoring the dead, about celebrating those who survived, about the emergence of battlefield tourism and what that says about a society, and about how societies mourn and recover. They make the distinction between individual and collective memory, between private and public rituals of remembrance. In sum, they are about societies: how they think, how they mourn, how they connect the past to the present, and how they incorporate the past into who and what they are.

Article.  9929 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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