Date of Degree
Cultural History | European History | Military History | Political History | Social History
Battle of Waterloo, History of Memory, British History, Remembrance
This dissertation examines the afterlife of the battle of Waterloo in the collective memory of Great Britain as well as the post-war lives of officers who fought there. Using a variety of techniques associated with cultural, social, and military history, it explores the concept of cultural ownership of a military event and contextualizes the relationship between Britain and her army in the nineteenth century, both at home and abroad. It argues that, almost immediately after the dust settled on the field of Waterloo, a variety of groups laid claim to different aspects of the ownership of the memory of the battle within Great Britain, resulting in a nationalization of the victory that was often complex and marked by overlapping claims. Over the thirty-seven years between the battle in 1815 and the Duke of Wellington’s funeral in 1852, those groups employed histories, memoirs, patronage, tourism, relic collecting, annual commemorations, performances, social interactions, and a variety of art and literature to celebrate Britain’s victory, further craft and delineate their own identities, and incorporate the battle into the wider creation myth of Great Britain.
To best explore Britain’s relationship with its army and with the victory at Waterloo, this dissertation is divided into two sections, the first comprising four chapters and the second three. The first section charts the cultural history of the British officer corps and the collective memory of the Battle of Waterloo, allowing for a detailed exploration of the question of ownership of a military victory, both within Britain and internationally. The first chapter contrasts military memoirs with civilian histories. The second examines Waterloo itself as a pilgrimage destination, while widening the question of ownership to include physical items and monuments. The third discusses military and civilian commemorations and celebrations of the Battle of Waterloo, from 1815 until the 1850s. The concluding chapter explores depictions of officers in the popular culture and media of the day. The second section begins with a chapter on the army at home (including Ireland), which discusses the change from wartime to peacetime service. The second chapter examines the involvement of officers in politics, focusing on veterans who followed Wellington’s lead and entered parliament. The third chapter covers veterans appointed by London to positions in the imperial service. The dissertation concludes with an epilogue on Wellington’s state funeral in 1852, arguing that this event served as the culmination of many of the cultural and social trends discussed throughout the work.
Reynolds, Luke A. L., "Who Owned Waterloo? Wellington’s Veterans and the Battle for Relevance" (2019). CUNY Academic Works.