Between 2014 and 2019, Great Britain and Northern Ireland undertook the largest public history project ever seen there. To mark the centenary of the First World War (1914–18) thousands of public arts projects, community histories, and acts of commemoration and remembrance took place across the country. This article explores a range of public arts projects, commemorative events, and community heritage projects to see what these widespread and diverse public histories can tell us about the cultural memory of the First World War in early twenty-first century Britain.
The People’s Centenary? Public History, Remembering and Forgetting in Britain’s First World War Centenary
Lucy Noakes is Professor of Modern History at the University of Essex, UK, where she holds the Rab Butler Chair of History. She led the AHRC funded Reflections on the Centenary of the First World War: Learning and Legacies for the Future research project between 2017 and 2021. Her work focuses on the experience and memory of warfare in twentieth-century Britain and her most recent monograph is Dying for the Nation: Death, Grief and Bereavement in Second World War Britain (Manchester University Press: 2020).
James Wallis currently works in the Commemorations Team at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He is also an Associate for Imperial War Museum’s Institute for the Public Understanding of War and Conflict. Between 2017 to 2021, James acted as Research Fellow for the AHRC-funded Reflections on the Centenary of the First World War: Learning and Legacies for the Future project at the University of Essex. Supported by additional work as a freelance researcher, his interests cover First World War heritage and commemorative practice.
The authors wish to acknowledge the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which funded the research project this article draws upon: Reflections on the Centenary: Learning and Legacies for the Future (2017–21, Project Reference AH/R001375/1).
Lucy Noakes, James Wallis; The People’s Centenary? Public History, Remembering and Forgetting in Britain’s First World War Centenary. The Public Historian 1 May 2022; 44 (2): 56–81. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2022.44.2.56
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