University of Leicester

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Place, community and commemorative cultures in the (re)making of local First World War memorials

posted on 2023-09-13, 13:08 authored by Elizabeth J. Blood

The changes inscribed by a century of public interaction with local First World War memorials alter their messages and embody different values over time. This tells a sometimes-uneasy story of both change and continuity, stasis and transmutation, preservation and modification that negotiates people, place, and changing commemorative cultures. This thesis reveals and analyses a detailed picture of this century of changing war memorials, using innovative research foci and interdisciplinary methods. With a focus on material change and what it reveals about custodianship and community, it chronologises and characterises the dynamic interface between people and memorials across the century. Freestanding monuments across two counties for which excellent data exists were selected for examination due to their popular use as the primary site for remembrance activity and the need to restrict the sample (estimated at over 100,000 across the UK) to a manageable number (130 for the chosen counties). Given the expanse of theoretical approaches, the thesis is necessarily selective in its overall approach, choosing a material culture emphasis over others to enhance originality, increase the pragmatic relevance of findings, and to fill a gap in current paradigms. It examines changing or competing claims to heritage, memory and recognition, through community agency and intervention in the built environment against a backdrop of social, cultural, political and military change. This provides new insights into the ‘long-view’ of commemoration in the local setting in England, with specific attention to temporal, spatial and social context and the resulting changing commemorative intent and aesthetics. This research constructs a detailed and reliable chronology of changes made to memorials c.1918-2021 by sampling two Midlands counties, revealing a range of influences from the individual to the international. It defines the developments of a new aesthetic of remembrance that embodies changing attitudes to commemoration within communities.



Sally Horrocks, James Moore,

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of History, Politics & International Relations

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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