Some public memories
The public image of what the war was like (bloody and muddy) and meant (pointless) has remained strikingly constant over the last four decades.
An interesting analysis of public memory of WWI in Britain, posted recently on H-Public.
Memorialization is always fraught and problematic. But we can’t let Wilfred Owen do our history work for us. As a historian my personal practice is usually focused on the objects and people that we fail to insist are important, fail to remind ourselves of. There are usually a few people who care deeply about these kinds of things (my dispatches from the fringes of the history of technology), at least intellectually. But when faced with enormous incidents of public memory around wars I’m always struck by the depth of feeling that emerges, that billows over. It’s about emotional truth–and public historians working on appropriate memorial institutions and projects–not treacly, hagiographic or inaccurate, but not cynical and contemptuous either–have hard decisions to make. Here’s to historians trying to get the stories right.