Remembering Europe’s bloody past: How do contemporary
commemorations of the Napoleonic Wars reflect changing ideas of Europe and European
Remembering Europe’s bloody past: How do contemporary commemorations of the Napoleonic Wars reflect changing ideas of Europe and European identities?
The aim of my project is to investigate the ways in which contemporary and historical commemorations of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) reflect changing ideas of national and European identities. Over the past two centuries the heritage of these battles has provided the foci for commemorative rituals, identity formation, and mass tourism. As the borders of European Nations formed and reformed, the meanings and uses of heritage narratives of conflict have changed, and these processes continue to this day. Through a diachronic analysis of the commemoration of three key battles: Trafalgar (1805), Leipzig (1813) and Waterloo (1815), this project will offer new insights into heritage and the perception of European identities.
To date, research on conflict commemoration has focused primarily on the two World Wars, with limited research conducted on the Napoleonic Wars. The case studies were selected due to their repeated and continuing transnational commemoration and perceived significance as historical events. As the European project continues to expand and evolve alongside a re-emergent nationalism, we can expect to see commensurate changes to the commemorations of the Napoleonic Wars and the values they are ascribed.
I will analyse the case studies individually and comparatively, considering the following questions:
- How have the forms of commemoration developed over the intervening two centuries, and what forces have driven these changes?
- How have these changes been perceived and accepted in the combatant nations?
- What role do contemporary commemorations of these battles play in the formation and reformation of European identities?
Sites of conflict and their uses as visitor attractions and heritage resources have been studied from a range of disciplinary perspectives including cultural economics, political history and critical heritage studies. The focuses of my study are episodes of distinct popular interest in the battles, such as centenaries and other anniversaries, often marked by refurbishments of sites and memorials, re-enactments and related events.
The results of this work will be a distinct and valuable contribution to the study of conflict heritage and the ongoing formation of European identities, giving insights in the shifting dynamics of the social commemoration of warfare across time.
- MA (hons), Celtic Civilisation and History, University of Aberdeen 2013
- MA, Public Archaeology, UCL, 2014