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A century of Armistice Day: memorialisation in the wake of the First World War

Macleod, Jenny; Inall, Yvonne


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Dr Jenny Macleod
Senior Lecturer in 20th Century History, Head of Department

Yvonne Inall


In the wake of the First World War a set of commemorative traditions were invented that were met with a huge public response and were repeated in almost every subsequent November. These apparently unchanging traditions were reported in the media each year in ways that reflected the, then, present circumstances. This article explores the ideas of continuity and relevance as a means to chart the changing nature of public debate about the commemoration of war in Britain. It will consider three broad periods: inter-war, the Second World War and post-war decades, and the 1980s to the centenary years. It will argue that the commemorations were fiercely relevant in the inter-war period demonstrated by the attendance of huge crowds and extensive newspaper coverage which related the ceremonies to contemporary events. When official commemorations resumed in 1946 limited changes were made and newspaper coverage was much reduced and more abstract: it spoke far less directly to the experiences and emotional legacy of the Second World War, and the habit of reporting on the commemorations diminished significantly in this period. The turning point appears to have been the 1980s wherein social and generational change, plus a series of poignant anniversaries and pilgrimages served to make commemoration emotionally and politically relevant once more such that by the late 1990s a renewed interest was widely noted. The sustained period of warfare from 2001 onwards added further to this.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 2, 2020
Journal Mortality
Print ISSN 1357-6275
Electronic ISSN 1469-9885
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 1
Pages 48-68
APA6 Citation Macleod, J., & Inall, Y. (2020). A century of Armistice Day: memorialisation in the wake of the First World War. Mortality, 25(1), 48-68.
Keywords Commemoration; Armistice Day; Remembrance Sunday; First World War; Second World War; Korean War; Afghanistan; Centenary
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