Afterlives of war

A descendants’ history

Michael Roper
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Afterlives of war is a study of the generations in Britain, Germany and Australia who were born after the First World War and lived in its shadow. They experienced the effects of the global cataclysm in their homes as young children before they knew the conflict as history. Yet because they were not direct witnesses, and their testimonies were ‘second hand’, the war’s impact on them was often hidden. Drawing on ninety interviews, observation of the First World War Centenary and research on the First World War past in the author’s own family, Afterlives documents the personal legacies of the conflict and the rich historical culture that descendants create. It investigates the letters, photographs, trench art and official records they hold in private archives, reconstructs their relationships with members of the war generation, and reflects on how the war past in the family shaped them as children and throughout their lives. It describes their efforts to piece together the war stories of their parents and grandparents and how they interact with national traditions of remembrance. Motivated by the experience of coming after, descendants have played a key role in the cultural memory of the First World War since 1918.

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