The French, the memory of the Great War, and its centenary

Academic innovation?
By Antoine Prost

The First World War, the “Great War”, is the greatest trial that France has had to face since the French Revolution. This is confirmed by the magnitude of World War I commemorations. These commemorations fit into a long-term perspective: for more than two decades, the war’s presence has grown stronger in French society, thanks to immense documentary resources available online, with conversations developing on the web, often going beyond family history. Commemoration has involved multiple stakeholders in various ways; family and local memories have been expressed as components of a national memory, and official events have granted a role to such memories. References to history have enriched and bolstered these memories, but the latter make the war into an exceptional period of suffering and grieving that obscures the reasons behind the war.

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