HST2015: Remembering the Fallen: British commemorations of the First World War

20 credits (semester 1)

Module Leader:

Dr Clare Griffiths



Pass in at least two of the Level One modules offered by the Department of History.


Module Summary

The commemorations associated with the marking of Armistice Day have become an enduring focus for remembrance in Britain: the mass silence, the symbol of the poppy, the creation of war memorials. Through engagement with a variety of types of primary source material, this module examines British responses at the end of the First World War, the forms of memorialisation which were adopted, and their legacy. The unit introduces students to techniques of source criticism and evaluation in the study of early twentieth-century British history, exploring themes of memory, national identity, and public and private responses to war and bereavement.


Module Aims

This module aims to:

  • Provide students with an in-depth understanding of British responses to the First World War, with particular emphasis on forms of commemoration of the war.
  • Introduce students to a range of skills in handling primary source material, including the interpretation of the use of language in written texts, and the development of a critical response to visual and physical sources.
  • Introduce students to a variety of historiographical approaches to the study of the history of memory and commemoration.
  • Promote students' ability to write informed and cogent essays in clear, structured and grammatical prose.
  • Promote collaborative learning among students and develop team-work skills.
  • Encourage students to develop their confidence and competence in presenting their ideas orally.


Teaching and Assessment

The module will be taught through a series of weekly lecture workshops and seminars. The lecture workshops will introduce students to the basic historical and historiographical context and prime students on pertinent issues and sources. They are an efficient way of providing information, encouraging ideas and guiding students' private study. Seminars will provide opportunities for students to present their ideas and interpretations to the wider group. They will be based on systematic study of primary sources prepared in advance and will involve student-led discussions and presentations in order to enhance team-working, presentational and interpretative skills, while involving students in intensive engagement with practices of source criticism.

Topics covered include:

  • The building of the Cenotaph and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
  • Rituals of remembrance, including the Great Silence
  • Poetry and epitaphs
  • War memoirs and histories of the war
  • The creation of the Imperial War Museum
  • The war in fiction
  • The construction of war memorials around the country
  • The battlefields: cemeteries and pilgrimage
  • The iconography of the ‘fallen’ soldier
  • The treatment of veterans
  • Female experiences of war and its aftermath
  • ‘The land fit for heroes’: political responses to the war


Selected Reading

  • Paul Fussell, The Great War in Modern Memory (1975)
  • Jay Winter, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning. The Great War in European cultural history (1995)
  • Adrian Gregory, The Silence of Memory (1994), and The Last Great War: British society and the First World War (2008)
  • George Robb, British Culture and the First World War (2002)
  • Siegfried Sassoon, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (1928)
  • Robert Graves, Goodbye to all that (1929)
  • Edmund Blunden, Undertones of War (1930)
  • Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth (1933)


Intended Learning Outcomes
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