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'Till we meet again’: Memory, Grief and Popular Religion in England in the Aftermath of the Great War

PERRY, IVOR,FENTON (2022) 'Till we meet again’: Memory, Grief and Popular Religion in England in the Aftermath of the Great War. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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It became fashionable in the 1970s to associate the Great War with the death of religion. The notion that ‘Tommy’ – the ordinary soldier – despised the war, his senior officers and God was promoted in film (Oh, What a Lovely War!), critical works (Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory) and the general revival of interest in the war poets. Historians soon showed that Tommy’s religion did not die in the mud of Passchendaele. From the late 1970s, McLeod showed very nuanced patterns of working-class religiosity. In the 1980s, Parsons revealed that the religion of ordinary people was different from the theology of the churches. Later, Snape described the complex response by Tommy to religion and the churches. All these studies however relied heavily either on statistics, or the writings of the educated middle classes – not the testimony of ordinary people themselves.
Ordinary people (apart from the religiously committed) did not normally write about their religious feelings. However, thanks to the Imperial War Graves Commission, tens of thousands of families were able to record epitaphs for their dead servicemen. Further, the expansion of cheap local newspapers and the growth of literacy promoted the use of In Memoriam notices. These sources provide a rich mix of religious and secular messages that families used to record their deepest feelings of loss, regret and hope. Through them, we are able to see the texts, sentiments and articles of faith that infused the religious responses of ordinary people in the period between 1914 and 1925. The religion of ordinary people emerges as a strong but subtle faith, subject to the stresses of social class, but inextricably interwoven with ideas of love, family and life after death.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:"religion"; "ordinary people"; "working class"; "Personal Inscriptions"; 'In Memoriams"; "IWGC"; "CWGC"; "war graves"; 'Hymns"; "epitaphs"; "First World War"; "Strict and Particular Baptists"; "Loughborough"; "Wymeswold"; "Other Ranks"
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:24 Jan 2023 08:27

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