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Nation, Memory and Great War Commemoration

Mobilizing the Past in Europe, Australia and New Zealand


Shanti Sumartojo and Ben Wellings

The Great War continues to play a prominent role in contemporary consciousness. With commemorative activities involving seventy-two countries, its centenary is a titanic undertaking: not only ‘the centenary to end all centenaries’ but the first truly global period of remembrance.
In this innovative volume, the authors examine First World War commemoration in an international, multidisciplinary and comparative context. The contributions draw on history, politics, geography, cultural studies and sociology to interrogate the continuities and tensions that have shaped national commemoration and the social and political forces that condition this unique international event. New studies of Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific address the relationship between increasingly fractured grand narratives of history and the renewed role of the state in mediating between individual and collective memories. Released to coincide with the beginning of the 2014–2018 centenary period, this collection illuminates the fluid and often contested relationships amongst nation, history and memory in Great War commemoration.
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Divergent Memories: Remembering and Forgetting the Great War in Loyalist and Nationalist Ireland



It has become commonplace at football matches to conduct an act of remembrance in any game taking place over the Armistice Sunday weekend. In November 2012, for example, I travelled to watch my own local heroes, Huddersfield Town, play at Barnsley. The hosts had produced not only a special commemorative programme, but before the observation of a minute’s silence by players, officials and the crowd, the match ball was delivered by members of the British Army abseiling from the top of the main grandstand. In recent years it has also become usual for those playing in the English Premier League to wear specially commissioned shirts with an embroidered poppy, which are then usually auctioned for charity. This year however, amidst much controversy, one footballer, Sunderland’s James McClean, who was raised in the strongly Irish nationalist Creggan Estate in Londonderry, refused to wear such a shirt. On the same weekend, in Belfast, when Linfield (overwhelmingly Protestant and unionist in support) played away at Cliftonville (with a large Catholic and nationalist following) the pre-match minute’s silence was loudly disrupted by many of the home fans. Both incidents offer a clear reminder that in Ireland, and within the Irish diaspora, involvement in the commemoration of the Great War has been, and remains, inseparable from broader political divisions.

The aim of this chapter, then, is to trace the origins of these divergent memories of the Great War, the reasons for which the nationalist and loyalist communities fought...

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