Cultures of CommemorationWar Memorials, Ancient and Modern

Cultures of CommemorationWar Memorials, Ancient and Modern

Polly Low, Graham Oliver, and P.J. Rhodes

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780197264669

Publisher: British Academy


This book offers a comparative approach to the study of the commemoration of war. It draws together a set of contributions that combine to produce a considered approach to the changes and continuities that marked the ways in which war, and in particular the war dead, were commemorated and remembered. Chapters explore the commemorative practices of Ancient Greece and Rome, and investigate how those practices have been reflected, adapted and abandoned in more recent Western cultures, from eighteenth-century France to twentieth-century Britain, Germany and the USA. The book concentrates on monuments set up by communities, from local communities to the state, but it also considers the role of ‘private’ memorials, since the interaction between private or more personalised monuments and the commemoration of the war dead by the community often lies at the heart of commemorative practices. It furthermore explores the relationship between memory and forgetting, in the context of the longer-term idea of cultural memory. Key questions addressed by the book include: What importance does such commemoration have for the cultures that continue to live with the legacies of the commemorative actions of the recent and distant past? How is the commemoration of the war dead of the past not only used but reused? The book demonstrates that our own understanding of the treatment of the war dead has absorbed and reinterpreted the treatments already developed by past societies.