Monday, February 06, 2006

the heritage of the great war

There's an excellent Dutch based website, The Heritage of The Great War, that's just reproduced an article of mine about remembrance. (The piece started life as a blog post and was slightly refined into an article that got published on Head Heritage).

I think one of the reasons the Great War is so fascinating is its status as the first historical event involving vast numbers of people who were all basically literate. Thus, we were able to get the perspective from ordinary people, we can identify with it more and feel an emotional impact that's harder to glean from tales of times before that.

I mean, most earlier historical events are portrayed as power games among ruling elites. When Henry VIII decapitated assorted spouses, how much did it affect the average peasant living in Northumbria? What difference would it have made to you or me if we were alive then?

This removal and abstraction vanished as literacy spread and allowed people to tell their own story. It accelerated as mass media documentation was invented to capture the stories of everyone literate or otherwise and - most important for big impact on a species with sight as the primary sense - gave photographic records to all who wanted to see them.

Also, it was the first time industrialisation had been applied to warfare, and that blundering into horror has the same sort of attraction as the sinking of the Titanic.

The Heritage of The Great War deliberately takes the people's perspective as opposed to the power-play one, and so I find it very absorbing and am really rather flattered that they've stuck one of my things on there.

No comments: