The Great War and Medieval Memory: War, Remembrance and Medievalism in Britain and Germany, 1914-1940

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Cambridge University Press, Jan 25, 2007 - History - 357 pages
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A genuinely comparative study of the cultural impact of the Great War on British and German societies in the first half of the twentieth century. Taking public commemorations as its focus, this book unravels the British and German search for historical continuity and meaning in the shadow of an unprecedented human catastrophe. In both countries, the survivors of the Great War pictured the conflict as the 'Last Crusade' and sought consolation in imagery that connected the soldiers of the age of total war with the knights of the Middle Ages. Stefan Goebel shows that medievalism as a mode of war commemoration transcended national and cultural boundaries. This is an invaluable contribution to the burgeoning study of cultural memory and collective remembrance which will appeal to researchers and students in the history of the First World War, social and cultural history of warfare and medieval studies.
 

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Contents

Front Cover
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the place
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continuity with a remote preindustrial past in
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visitors who did not share Sassoons bitterness A journalist from
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about 30 miniatures of Churches other local views Army
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case of fictive kinship the bereaved could imagine him as
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which infused the static signifier with meaning High politics could
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cultural policies and political aesthetics Redslob proposed in an article
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and selfcontrol not to the overpowering force of total
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within the framework of communal commemorations which were
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strength17 Composure not brutality distinguished this iron warrior
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even harder material21 Wooden objects were thus turned into steeled
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written the humorous poem Swabian Intelligence Schwabische
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The steelhelmeted man
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The steel helmet connoted the imagined Kriegserlebnis of the frontline
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for the onset of nervous symptoms On the contrary they
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architecture seemed to protect the grave erected in its centre
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Constructing continuity
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Experts were alarmed by the example of the monumental legacy
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be called contextual memorials The underlying assumption was that
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in Bremens ancient cathedral40 The actual project was stillborn yet
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national Valhalla of great names saw the apotheosis of a
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It is noteworthy that the Unknown Warrior was interred in
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The way the Unknown Warrior was absorbed into the history
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afterthought57 Adenauers initiative failed not least because it was an
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was decided to rebuild the eastern chapel of Norwich Cathedral
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respectively acted in an advisory capacity to the committees In
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In 1920 the Dean of Norwich launched a public appeal
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Later in the same year the dean introduced on Christmas
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Legend had it that for centuries passing craftsmen had followed
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commemoration must be affixed to my war sign for centuries
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Music is an important element in church liturgy At the
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foundress and daughter of King Alfred Edward the Confessor a
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Projecting features of modern soldiers on to historic or legendary
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theology and the lives of the saints by means of
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Crafts aesthetics To be sure there were notable exceptions like
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In sum memorial makers in Britain and Germany developed similar
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memorial which was to be placed at Germanys most central
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The same discrepancy between iconographical evidence and
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knight116 Berlins nude knight has no equivalent in British
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was the Dean of Westminster who pushed through the tomb
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of the world war Germanicism became fully entrenched in popular
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correspondence with their colleagues at Marienburg Unlike them
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confined neither to the rightwing milieu although they were
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permission to set up a boulder with an Iron Cross
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funeral mounds in a book edited by the provincial advice
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landscape gardeners and memorial committees The Volksbund
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which Lange only mentioned in parenthesis Gothic architecture in
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coupled the Heldenhain idea with Germanic mythology for Mount
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Tombs for Unknown Warriors surrogate bodies endless lists of names
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the nature
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TAKE UP THE SWORD OF JUSTICE also visualised the
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Righteousness the Shield of Faith the Helmet of Salvation and
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the idea of sacred strife12 Robert Graves noted after the
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presiding over or executing the Weltgericht the world judgment which
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specific idea of holy war was reduced to a mere
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the Crusaders sword presented by the king a relic of
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Crusaders Sword was already part of the uniform style of
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Old families of this land were
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Richard C ur de Lions mythic counterpart Louis IX saint and
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Liberal instincts remained deeply ingrained across British society
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former he praised for its original and unpretentious style The
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since their legends shared many features such as the fight
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had to lend his name to Operation Michael one of
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maintaining her position reckenstark strong like a warrior in a
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the homeland and the fatherland figure most prominently in German
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1000yearold Trutzburg stronghold79 In England castles similarly
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Totenburgen fortresses of the dead as burial places85 Stark fortresses
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Avariation on the fortress theme represented the use of remains
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Figure 22 Iron Roland Wartime postcard depicting the ironnail
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liberty metamorphosed during the war into a fighter for the
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Dortmund both of 191599 The latter depicted Dortmunds
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finding is revealing The memorial clearly features a Feldgrauer a
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which was not invented but revived during the nineteenth century
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freedom117 In Britain commemorations of the 191418 conflict
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Cross rededicated as St Georges Chapel in 1944 functioned as
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British travel agent Thomas Cook Like a conqueror the Kaiser
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and Lutheran churches established missions and other institutions in the
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Eric Kennington a man who believed in the individuality and
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The jihad idea was contrary to the British frame of
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Canada the department of education included the monograph in a
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The Hertfordshire Regiments part in the liberation of Jerusalem by
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Crusading imagery was supradenominational At the Roman Catholic
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stainedglass window dedicated to a namesake of his Richard Knowles
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Islamic jihad nor the Christian crusade could plausibly serve as
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Tannenberg and eastern Europe
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August 1914 was a careful recollection of the clash of
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functionalism and Art Deco166 The diverse functions of the memorial
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When Hitler finally declared the Tannenberg site a Reich memorial
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In 1927 when the Reich President attained the age of
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sect founded in 1925 shrilly ostracising Freemasons Jesuits Jews and
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It is worth contrasting this statement with the unveiling volume
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warriors in pursuit of Lebensraum livingspace rather than Kulturtrager
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Vaterlandische Verbande the Deutscher Ostmarkenverein founded in
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A key element of the mental conquest of eastern Europe
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which also includes a list of the names of its
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readily joined the national camp and gave its consent for
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time203 This very passage from his speech was recorded verbatim
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The memorial of Tannenberg was intended to broadcast German
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formative influence of Germanic stone circles Their clients did not
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completed in peacetime the opening of the fountain was originally
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The paranoia about the Slavic threat took on new dimensions
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into both scripts In Germany personalisation paved the way for
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wars are wars of belief have been in the past
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Germanys messianic zeal Moreover the increasing pressure on her
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of Goslar and the Neue Wache the classicalstyle guard house
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plan became inevitable because of the war The project was
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our promise242 In addition to real history the Song of
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of the Viking raiders belonged to the arsenal of southern
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and this trend continued after 1918 The mayor of Todmorden
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Ultimately most discussions of the nature of the conflict in
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the war
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armour said Lloyd George in the winter of 19144 Even
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World War experience namely operations in the front line of
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to return to their civilian lives held themselves aloof from
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British art critics the Leipzig memorial stood as an antimodel
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he made no attempt to link this observation to the
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been fortunate enough to be spared from havoc and humiliation
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Historic ruins at home
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Belgians the ruins of Ypres including the thirteenthcentury Cloth Hall
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front75 Nevertheless in 191418 both the British and German
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fountain also a work by Lohf was opened near the
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irreplaceable cultural treasures to new dangers Buildings that had defied
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Versailles Treaty German libraries were forced to hand over books
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military were to be marked with appropriate symbols and spared
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lieu de memoire A shellshattered pilaster from the cathedral was
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the scope and scale of the destruction Photography proved a
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preservationists fancied themselves custodians of art history in the midst
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The plan which came to nought was absolutely in line
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imagery reveals striking ambiguities in negotiations of modernity
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the soldiers character
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Junger reiterated a British popular sentiment Chivalry dominated
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chapter Instead they exalted the soldiers chivalry a code of
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character12 Character in turn demanded conquering ones weaker self
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Christian and Arthurian iconography tended to converge frequently to
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saint St George triumphing over the dragon were unproblematic
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elements do not necessarily occur together in any given memorial
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Memorial makers indulged in masculine heroics Nevertheless Paul
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Tranquil you
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dedicated to a true and very gallant Welsh gentleman stated
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were they gallant in action they were chivalrous to their
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a cross as in the case of the Pearl Assurance
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Gentlemanliness and chivalry had long been the identifying code of
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insignificance of affirmative chivalric notation in German war
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Bernd Huppauf has characterised the opposition between the myths
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of the Bundische Jugend gathered in the Rhon mountains to
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corps of publicschooleducated Britons School and university war
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from the FrancoPrussian war in AlsaceLorraine provoked public
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Naturally diplomatic etiquette shaped and constrained the language
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Song of the Nibelungen in Germany At the time Wihelms
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General Erich Ludendorff who made a name for himself as
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from the otherwise unspectacular war at sea Having sent Britains
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German perspective submarines and Zeppelins took reprisals for enemy
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prime symbol of German savagery and a Berlin Dada artist
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western Allies105 While the western Allies labelled such acts Hunnish
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the game though followed a different set of rules In
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the Versailles Treaty116 Some construed sport as a peacetime surrogate
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effort Eventually in April 1915 the Football Association gave in
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for comparing great things with small for the chevalerie of
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Cricket hockey and rugby were of course a privilege of
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one finds the verse of John William Streets a coal
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man with whom I fence I merely want to
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where there was still chivalry and honour147 In short the
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in the funeral honours for the dead Richthofen provided by
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homegrown knights of the sky157 The most notable memorial to
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whom the bestial Hun was indiscriminately raining down bombs
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leader himself as superman hard as steel with steely blue
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slaughter but the reconfiguration of wartime brutality in postwar
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the prospects
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right between death and life recalling the soldiers nobility and
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principal point of religious reference in war remembrance The Passion
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they cannot reject the symbol of selfsacrifice which the wooden
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The lanterne aux morts at Beaconsfield on the traditional medieval
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similar ends in Britain15 In order to appeal to a
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cross where a roof supported by pillars had been added
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the cross32 The design of the latter by Hermann Hosaeus
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bottle containing an historical sketch of their monumental tribute to
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2 to 1 out of a total of 996 entries37
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Supernatural Allies first and foremost the English patron saint
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legend the market for the paranormal had still not been
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discursive fields It is noteworthy that saintly intervention was
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The fact that the bloodshed came to an end on
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Pray for the souls
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annual peak of family mourning the warmemorial chapel of St
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To summarise this section Christianity or rather medievalist forms
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Britain is a remarkable indication of the public denial of
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is important to recognise that this distinction is purely conceptual
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of 180167 The memorial was neither stridently heroic nor funerary
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anatomically whole humans provided a literal and metaphorical
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presumed a tacit agreement as to what the plot should
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the cover signalling defiance like a mirror image of the
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in Thuringia until the restoration of the Holy Roman Empire
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Ottos twentiethcentury descendants whereas the SocialDemocratic
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to the Staufen dynasty was briefly under discussion too85 Designers
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captures the moment of his awakening while the Whitebeard is
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the monument of 1896 promising individual and national rebirth
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The return from Avalon
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Unknown Warrior reads the epitaph suggested by one Mr T
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personal griefs102 Kitcheners body was never found and rumours
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exhibition catalogue and the press broadcast the agenda of the
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who stand below no individual identity112 Likewise Charles Sargeant
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national war memorial derived from the areas sublime beauty
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the collapse of the home front in autumn 1918 amid
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While the mayor and the chancellor were secretly conferring about
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The Lorelei a precipitous rock on the River Rhine not
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of Liberation127 Around the same time the newspapers Catholic rival
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Museum Folkwang the proposed project combined the bourgeois ideal
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are calling our memorial the Hitler castle So past and
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the war should be commemorated by means of flags frescoes
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rector of the university taking his cue from Wagner called
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About the author (2007)

Stefan Goebel is Lecturer in Modern British History at the University of Kent at Canterbury, and Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research, London.

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