YUFE Academy Lecture hosted by the University of Essex
16:00 - 18:00
Professor Lucy Noakes
Lectures, talks and seminars
Led By Donkeys: Englishness, Nostalgia, and Crisis by Professor Lucy Noakes
Anyone looking at England in the spring of 2020 might have wondered why, in the midst of a pandemic, which has currently infected and killed more people in Britain than in any other part of Europe, the country seemed to be obsessed by a conflict some 70 years ago. From ex-UKIP MEPs tweeting that Luftwaffe bombs didn’t keep the British out of their pubs, and so no virus was going to do so, to conga lines in streets celebrating the 75th anniversary of VE Day in the midst of a national lockdown, the war was everywhere.
In this paper I want to trace some of the reasons for this, looking at the creation of an enduring cultural memory of the Second World War as the country’s ‘finest hour’ during the war itself and since. While almost all European countries have cultural memories of the Second World War that are shaped by the needs and demands of the present, this memory of the war has fed into a sense of ‘English exceptionalism’ that has, arguably, led to a series of crises in British, and especially English, public life. I’ll think in particular about the shift from a memory of ‘the People’s War’ to a memory of ‘Churchill’s War’ and how this might have enabled the war’s co-option by the right-wing populism that has been so evident in Britain over the past decade.
Students, staff and members of our local community are invited to find out more about the Young Universities for the Future of Europe alliance, YUFE, by taking part in the first edition of the YUFE Academy. For five weeks throughout November and December, the YUFE Academy is offering four online lectures a week across the alliance’s YUFE universities – which includes Essex – letting participants 'travel' through ten European countries and get a unique experience of attending 20 very different academic lectures.