Defeat and Memory in Modern History

TitleDefeat and Memory in Modern History
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsHorne, John
EditorMacleod, Jenny
Book TitleDefeat and Memory: Cultural Histories of Military Defeat in the Modern Era
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
CityBasingstoke, UK

Defeat looms large in memory, and thus history, because it marks rupture and renewal even more obviously than its inescapable twin, victory. Yet a literature search reveals little that addresses defeat and its memory in a thematic way. The obvious exception to this generalization is the fine study by Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Culture of Defeat, which compares the American South after the Civil War, France after 1870 and Germany after 1918. This apart, most studies of the subject are of individual defeats and are unreflective of the phenomenon as a whole. The task is enormous, even limited to the period since the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The ambition here is to establish some distinctions that may be useful in thinking further about how comparisons between different individual defeats might be framed. Horne looks first at different types of defeat and then at what, if anything, distinguishes defeat in the last two centuries from earlier periods. Finally, he considers the relationship between defeat as experience and as memory.

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