The officers’ mess
An anthropology and history of the military interior
in Dividing the spoils
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This chapter uses a model of British Army organisational culture and historical analysis to examine the nature of the ‘military interior’ – specifically the public rooms in the officers’ mess and the artefacts found within. The authors seek to combine their expertise to create a broader understanding of how military culture is lived out in this space, dynamically in terms of how the members treat the mess as both a domestic space and a focal point for performance of battalion and regimental identity, and statically as a place where artefacts – from regimental silver to pieces acquired on imperial campaigns – are displayed. By placing these artefacts in their historical mess settings, this chapter examines the various meanings that can be ascribed to them in this culturally distinct environment. These meanings may be associated with the nature of the military hierarchy; with the expression of mutual respect and affection towards present and past mess members; with operational performance and success; and with the identity of the battalion or regiment.

Dividing the spoils

Perspectives on military collections and the British empire

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