UK Web Archive blog

53 posts categorized "Collections"

12 November 2021

Welsh language websites within the UK Web Archive

By Aled Betts, Acquisitions Librarian and Web Archivist, National Library of Wales

The National Library of Wales have been collecting Welsh language websites to archive for the UK Web Archive since the 2004. In 2018, we decided to collate these websites and include them in a dedicated Collection in order to make it more accessible to researchers.

Significantly, 2018 was an important milestone for the Welsh language as it was 25 years since the passing of the Welsh Language Act in 1993 which gives effect to the principle that in the conduct of public business in Wales, the English and Welsh languages should be treated ‘on the basis of equality’. It was also 10 years since the passing of Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 giving the Welsh language official status in Wales. In terms of Government and Public Bodies, the following principle that the Welsh language will not be treated less favourably than English was observed. As a result, the Welsh language is clearly visible and widespread on the web as many websites by law are now bilingual.

However, the aim of the Welsh Language Collection was not simply to list websites that were published through the medium of Welsh. The focus was more on those websites and organisations whose aim was to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh language in all walks of life. The Collection also covers websites relating to Welsh language communities, online and physical, where Welsh is the medium of communication. It also looks at bodies that promote Welsh umbrella organisations as well as groups that campaign and lobby for the language. Furthermore, we have been collecting Welsh language websites since 2004, therefore we were able to showcase many of these websites and show how much they had changed over the last 17 years!

Here is just a small sample of the type of websites covered in the Welsh Language Collection.

Advocacy, campaigning and lobbying
Much of the work promoting the Welsh language across Wales is done by Mentrau Iaith (English: Language Initiatives). These are community-based organisations that operate to raise the profile of the Welsh language in a specific area. The percentage of Welsh speakers vary considerably. For instance, the highest percentages of Welsh speakers can be found in Gwynedd (64%) and the lowest is Blaenau Gwent (8%) therefore the challenges in each area differ. In order to capture this important work, we also archived their twitter feeds. These feeds are showing us how these initiatives are promoting the Welsh language in their respective areas. Furthermore, the Menter Iaith (English: Language initiative) umbrella body website is one the earliest sites we captured, a site we first archived in 2006.

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Mentrau Iaith (English: Language initative) website in 2021

Mentrau Iaith website

Mentrau Iaith (English: Language initative) website in 2006 

Over the last 2 decades, we have seen bodies and organisations evolve, grow and some disappear. A statutory body set up under the Welsh Language Act 1993 was Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg (English: Welsh Language Board). The board was responsible for administering the Welsh Language Act and for seeing that public bodies in Wales kept to its terms. The Welsh Language Board was abolished in 2012 and following the passing of the 2011 Welsh Language (Wales) Measure, powers were transferred to the Welsh Government and the Welsh Language Commissioner, a new body promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language. Fortunately, we have captured this transfer of power as we have been archiving the Welsh Language Board website since 2008 and the Welsh Language Commissioner since 2012, in both cases, open access has been granted.

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Bwrdd yr iaith Gymraeg/ (English: Welsh Language Board) website in 2008

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Comisiynydd y Gymraeg (English: Welsh Language Commissioner) website in 2021

Arts and Culture
The Welsh language has a lively and vibrant arts, music and literature scene. This is no more exemplified by the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol (English: National Eisteddfod) and Urdd Gobaith Cymru, the Welsh language national voluntary youth organisation, who run the Urdd Eisteddfod, arguably Europe's largest youth festival. Both sites are archived since early 2000’s. The National Eisteddfod is held in different locations each year alternating between north and south Wales therefore naturally the content changes every year. The first National Eisteddfod we archived was Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru Casnewydd a’r Cylch (English: National Eisteddfod of Wales Newport and surrounding area) in 2004 and our first Urdd National Eisteddfod was Eisteddfod yr Urdd Sir Ddinbych (English: Urdd Eisteddfod Denbighshire) in 2006! Again, open access granted, therefore available to view anywhere.

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The Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru Casnewydd a’r Cylch (English: National Eisteddfod of Wales Newport and surrounding area) 2004

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Urdd Eisteddfod Denbighshire 2006

Alongside the all-important bodies, we archive a plethora of arts and culture websites, from record labels to folk groups, theatrical bodies, local eisteddfodau and Welsh language festivals. Same goes for the buoyant Welsh literature and publishing scene, close to a hundred websites listed within our ‘literature and publishing sub-section.

Education and Learning
An all-important sub-section is Education and learning. Here two types of websites dominate. One is education and learning through the medium of Welsh. Here, Welsh-medium education, including Mudiad Meithrin (English: Nursery Movement), formed in 1971, to nurture early-years Welsh speakers to Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol (English: Welsh National College), formed in 2011, to develop Welsh-language courses and resources for Higher Education students are archived.

Welsh-language-07

Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol (English: Welsh National College) website in 2011

Secondly, the web has seen an explosion of language learning websites globally. This is also apparent in the Welsh language allowing those wishing to learn a second language to do so through the internet.

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SaySomethinginWelsh website in 2011

As of 2021, the collection has between 500 and 600 websites and is a growing collection. However, a significant collection, as many websites were collected since the early days of web archiving in 2004. The principle of equality had been an underlying theme in Welsh language discourse and legislation was passed to meet this demand. The Collection explores how promoting and supporting the Welsh language has changed over the past 20 years but also shows how legislation has helped shape this change.

19 October 2021

Clouds and blackberries: how web archives can help us to track the changing meaning of words

By Dr Barbara McGillivray (Turing Fellow), Pierpaolo Basile (Assistant Professor in Computer Science, University of Bari), Dr Marya Bazzi (Turing Fellow) and  Dr Jenny Basford, Jason Webber (British Library)

NOTE: This a re-blog from the Alan Turing Institute, with permission.

The meaning of words changes all the time. Think of the word ‘blackberry’, for example, which has been used for centuries to refer to a fruit. In 1999, a new brand of mobile devices was launched with the name BlackBerry. Suddenly, there was a new way of using this old word. ‘Cloud’ is another example of a well-established word whose association with ‘cloud computing’ only emerged in the past couple of decades. Linguists call this phenomenon ‘semantic change’ and have studied its complex mechanisms for a long time. What has changed in recent years is that we now have access to huge collections of data which can be mined to find these changes automatically. Web archives are a great example of such collections, because they contain a record of the changing content of web pages.

But how can we automatically detect in a huge web archive when a word has changed its meaning? A common strategy is to build geometric representations of words called word embeddings. Word embeddings use lots of data about the context in which words are used so that similar words can be clustered together. We can then do operations on these embeddings, for example to find the words that are closest (and most similar in meaning) to a given word. It’s a useful technique, but building embeddings takes a lot of computing power. Having access to pre-trained embeddings can therefore make a big difference, enabling those in the scientific community without sufficient computational resources to participate in this research.

A team of researchers from The Alan Turing Institute and the Universities of Bari, Oxford and Warwick, in collaboration with the UK Web Archive team based at the British Library, has now released DUKweb, a set of large-scale resources that make pre-trained word embeddings freely available. Described in this article, DUKweb was created from the JISC UK Web Domain Dataset (1996-2013), a collection of all .uk websites archived by the Internet Archive between 1996 and 2013. (This dataset is held and maintained by the UK Web Archive, which has been collecting websites since 2005, initially on a selective basis and since 2013 at a whole domain level.) DUKweb contains 1.3 billion word occurrences and two types of word embeddings for each year of the JISC UK Web Domain Dataset. The size of DUKweb is 330GB.

Researchers can use DUKweb to study semantic change in English between 1996 and 2013, looking at, for instance, the effects of the growth of the internet and social media on word meanings. For example, if the word ‘blackberry’ is used mostly to refer to fruits in 1996 and to mobile phones in 2000, the 1996 embedding for this word will be quite different from its 2000 embedding. In this way, we can find words that may have changed meaning in this time period. The figure below (from Tsakalidis et al., 2019) shows four words whose contexts of use have changed in the last couple of decades: ‘blackberry’, ‘cloud’, ‘eta’ and ‘follow’. The bars indicate words most similar to these four words in 2000 (red bars) and in 2013 (blue bars). The scale along the bottom gives a measure of the change.

figure 02 - analysis - clouds, blackberries

The resources that underpin DUKweb are hosted on the British Library’s research repository, and are available for anyone in the world to download, reuse and repurpose for their own projects. This repository is part of the BL’s Shared Research Repository for cultural heritage organisations, which brings together the research outputs produced by participating institutions, and makes them discoverable to anybody with an internet connection. Providing a stable, dedicated location to hold heritage datasets in order to share them with a wider research community has been one of the key drivers in the implementation and development of this repository service. We are grateful to the British Library’s Repository Services team for supporting this collaboration between the UK Web Archive team and the Turing by making the content for DUKweb available.

Read the paper: DUKweb: diachronic word representations from the UK Web Archive corpus

 

04 October 2021

UK Web Archive Climate Change Collection

By Andrea Deri, Cataloguer, Lead Curator of UK Web Archive Climate Change Collection; Nicola Bingham, Lead Curator, Web Archives; Eilidh MacGlone, Web Archivist; Trevor Thomson, General Collections Assistant (Collection Development) National Library of Scotland


What public climate and sustainability related UK websites would you preserve for future research?

What public UK websites tell the story of climate change actions in your areas of living, travelling, working, study and passions?

Nominate these websites to the UK Web Archive Climate Change Collection. You can nominate as many websites or webpages as you feel are relevant.

Desert landscape - Photo by '_Marion'
Photo by '_Marion'

About the Climate Change Collection
The UK Web Archive Climate Change Collection is not only an archive of past digital content preserved for future research. It is also a live, dynamic, growing resource for decisions, research and learning today.  

Much of the debate around climate change is taking place on the Web and is, therefore, highly ephemeral, meaning it is important to capture it now, in real time. The UK Web Archive Climate Change collection does just that: captures climate related public UK websites and archives them regularly according to the frequency of updates on the website. 

What is the UK Web Archive?
The UK Web Archive (UKWA) is a collaboration of the six UK legal deposit libraries working together to preserve websites for future generations. The Climate Change collection is one of over hundred curated collections of the UK Web Archive. Given the multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary nature of the climate crisis, researchers may also find several other UKWA collections relevant for studying climate change, for example, the News Sites, Science Collection, British Countryside, Energy, Local History Societies, District Councils, Political Action and Communication, Brexit, among others.  

While all the UK legal deposit libraries contribute subject expertise to the Climate Change collection’s development, to make it more representative we solicit nominations as widely as possible. To this end we have developed a simple form, which allows anyone to nominate public websites or web pages published in the UK. If you would like to nominate a website for the UK Web Archive Climate Change collection add the title, URL and brief description of the website or webpage. 

UKWA Climate change nomination-form

If you would like us to acknowledge your nomination, enter  your name and email address.

What can UKWA archive?
Before you nominate, you might want to check your nomination for scope and duplication. The UK Web Archive cannot archive sound and video platforms in which the audio and video content dominate. Websites that require personal log-in details, for example Facebook sites, or private intranets, emails, personal data on social networking sites or websites only allowable to restricted groups. 

What happens to my nomination?
All nominations are checked manually by a curator. If the website meets the requirements of non-print legal deposit, it is added to the collection by library staff without any prejudice regarding content. We want to make the climate change collection representative of diverse perspectives. The annotation process includes assigning broad subject labels, crawl frequency (the frequency of archiving), and a licencing request for making historical pages public. While all UKWA Climate Change collection titles are listed online, archived versions of the websites can be accessed only in legal deposit libraries’ reading rooms unless licenced.  

 Why is this collection important?
The UKWA Climate Change collection serves several functions, three being particularly important: 

  1. Supports research - Supports research related to climate change issues
  2. Raises awareness & curiosity - Makes readers aware of and curious about the diversity of climate change impacts, mitigation and adaptation activities across scale
  3. Engages in action - Inspires readers to take action including nominating websites for future preservation and by doing so contributing to the knowledge base of climate change

By inviting nominations, the UKWA Climate Change collection draws on a citizen science approach, in other words, engages members of the public in academic research and developing the collection. The integration of library science and citizen science acknowledges the complementary values of diverse forms of knowledge, including diverse forms of local knowledge. With their nominations contributors can diversify existing sub-collections and initiate the creation of new sub-collections. For example, a new sub-collection has just recently been suggested dedicated to climate change & sustainability strategies of UK galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM sector).  

History of the Collection
The collection was established when The Paris Agreement was negotiated at the UNFCCC COP21, in 2015. The acceleration of the climate crises, the exponential growth of digital climate content publishing and the demand for innovations that can be inspired by a diversity of knowledge, local, practical, technical and academic, called for an upgrade. The Climate Change collection is an important source of knowledge both in preparation for the UNFCCC COP26 conference in Glasgow

Websites and webpages archived over time tell the stories how individuals and organisations have been making sense of and responding to the climate crises. We encourage you to nominate the public websites that tell the stories of your engagement with the changing climate and websites you want to preserve for future generations. 

Further recommended sources 

09 September 2021

UK Communities online - Enthusiasts and Hobbyists

By Jason Webber, Web Archive Engagement Manager, The British Library

Over the next few months we will be looking at some of the communities in the UK and how they have used the web. Look out for #UKCommunitiesOnline on twitter.

Whatever your hobby or interest, however obscure or niche, the web has allowed people to share their passions and meet (virtually or in real life) likeminded folk. Let's look at just a few items from the fantastic 'Online Enthusiast' collection.

The English Tiddlywinks Association

Blitz, gromp and squidger - just a few of the fabulous terms used in the very serious (but also very fun) game of Tiddlywinks. 

English tiddlywinks assoc

Archived website from 2014.

British Trams Online

There may not be as many tram services in the UK as there once was but here is THE definitive guide to trams currently in service across the UK.

British trams online archived website

Archived website from 2015.

Morris Dancing - 'Open Morris'

The long held tradition of 'Morris Dancing'. A form of this folk dancing has been around since the late middle ages and is still a popular pastime.

Open morris website in the UK web Archive

Archived page from 2014.

Synth DIY Wiki

Music is a huge part of many people's lives but not many make their own instruments. From the website: "This is a budding wiki for learning and sharing knowledge about making, modifying, or repairing electronic musical instruments and related equipment yourself."

Synth diy website

Archived page from 2014.

Telegraph Pole Society

"These much ignored pieces of rural and urban furniture finally have a website of their own."

Telegraph pole society in the UK Web Archive

Archived page from 2020.

Call out!

Is your hobby, interest or pastime represented online? Have you made a website about your spare time passion? You can nominate ANY UK website here: www.webarchive.org.uk/nominate

25 January 2021

Rabbie Burns and the UK Web Archive

By Jason Webber, Web Archive Engagement Manager, British Library

Born on 25 January 1759, Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns, sometimes known as the ‘National Bard’, the ‘Bard of Ayrshire’ and the ‘Ploughman Poet’, is rightly famous for his poetry in the Scots dialect. Burns’ legacy remains strong into the digital age and his work has been widely collected and can be seen in the UK Web Archive.

'Editing robert burns' website

This fantastic AHRC funded project ‘Editing Robert Burns’ aims to produce a multi-edition volume of his work. If you like a pun you can’t help but smile at ‘Daylight Rabbery: The Story of ‘Antique Smith’s’ Robert Burns Forgeries’.

Cutty Sark website

Did you know that famous Greenwich landmark, and former tea clipper, ‘Cutty Sark’ gets its name from the Robert Burns poem ‘Tam o’shanter’?

But Tam kend what was what fu' brawlie:
There was ae winsome wench and waulie,
That night enlisted in the core,
Lang after ken'd on Carrick shore;
(For mony a beast to dead she shot,
And perish'd mony a bonie boat,
And shook baith meikle corn and bear,
And kept the country-side in fear.)
Her cutty-sark, o' Paisley harn
That while a lassie she had worn,

Burns makes a more direct influence into the 21st century with ‘Rabbie Burns Saves the World: an 8 Bit Game’. Play the game here.

8 bit burns website game

Do you know any online Robert Burns resources? We would love to include any in the UK Web Archive. Nominate any UK website here: www.webarchive.org.uk/nominate

Do also check out our ‘Poetry Zines and Journals’ collection.

Happy Burns Night!

25 November 2020

LGBTQ+ Lives Online Web Archive Collection

By Steven Dryden, British Library LGBTQ+ Staff Network & Ash Green CILIP LGBTQ+ Network

As you’ll have read on this blog, the collaboration with UK Web Archive (UKWA), British Library and CILIP LGBTQ+ Network to develop LGBTQ+ content within the UK Web Archive was launched during summer 2020.

Rainbow tapestry

LGBTQ+ content was already part of the UK Web Archive before the collaboration began, with many sites in other collections overlapping LGBTQ+ themes. For example, Black and Asian Britain (blackgayblog.com), Gender Equality (Beyond the Binary), Sport (Graces Cricket Club). And some sites cut across many collections, highlighting the intersectional nature of the UK Web Archive. For example, Gal-Dem features in the News Sites; Zines and Fanzines; Black and Asian Britain; Gender Equality; Women's Issues; Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights collections, as well as LGBTQ+ Lives Online. LGBTQ+ Lives Online, much like the lived experience of the LGBTQ+ does not sit in isolation, disconnected from other aspects of UK offline and online life. LGBTQ+ people play a part in all aspects of the UK community, and are not solely defined by their gender or sexual orientation.

This UK Web Archive collection doesn’t stand in isolation either, it enriches the scope of work already begun at The British Library.LGBTQ Histories aims to explore the experiences and stories encountered in the collections, posing questions about the lived experience of LGBTQ+ people throughout history.The LGBTQ+ Lives Online collection of the UK Web Archive plays a part in CILIP LGBTQ+ Network’s ambition to raise the profile of LGBTQ+ people, support the development of LGBTQ+ information resources and the work of LGBTQ+ Library, information and knowledge workers.

LGBTQ+ Lives Online Collection

UKWA 'ACT' tool

The collection currently contains over 400 sites and web pages in the main collection, with more of these being added to sub-collections every week. Many of the sites were already in the UKWA before the collaboration began, but were not linked to sub-collections. We are still at the stage where we are developing the structure of sub-collections but our initial indexes cover:

Since the launch of this collaborative project, we have been focused on a number of areas to both develop the project and to preserve sites within the collection. This includes:

  • Identifying sites already in the UK Web Archive to be added to the LGBTQ+ Lives Online sub-collections.
  • Identifying new sites not already in the UKWA to be included in the collection.
  • Spreading the word about the project as widely as possible via blog posts and articles such as this; social media; emails targeting specific LGBTQ+, library, and broader diversity organisations and networks.

You can browse through the collection here, and nominate a UK published site or webpage with a focus on LGBTQ+ lives to be included in the collection via: https://www.webarchive.org.uk/en/ukwa/info/nominate. We would especially like to see more nominations that reflect the multicultural nature of UK LGBTQ+ communities and the many diaspora communities based here, including UK sites written in languages other than English.

Though it can often be challenging for us to archive social media accounts, we are able to collect LGBTQ+ Twitter accounts. We have experimented with other methods of archiving social media but this is on a selective basis, but we would welcome nominations and projects that might address these challenges and how they might impact on archiving LGBTQ+ experience in the UK,

How can you access these archived websites?

UKWA search results page

Under the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013, the UKWA  can archive UK published websites, but are only able to make the archived version available to people outside the Legal Deposit Libraries Reading Rooms, if the website owner has given permission. The UK Legal Deposit Libraries are the British Library, National Library of Scotland, National Library of Wales, Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Dublin Library.  

Some of the websites in UKWA have already had permission granted, these include Out Stories Bristol, Trans Ageing and Care, Bi Cymru/Wales and Queer Zine Library. As the content of UKWA has mixed access, the message ‘Viewable only on Library premises’ will appear under the title of the website if you need to visit a Legal Deposit Library to view content. If there is no message underneath then the archived version of the website should be available on your personal device.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the reading rooms were closed for a number of weeks but are starting to reopen. This blog post gives an overview of opening hours and how to book a visit at the six UK Legal Deposit Libraries:

https://blogs.bl.uk/webarchive/2020/09/ukwa-available-in-reading-rooms-again.html 

Previous blog posts about the project can be viewed via the following links.

LGBTQ+ Lives Online project introduction

LGBTQ+ Lives Online: Introducing the Lead Curators

 

18 November 2020

2020 Domain Crawl Update

By Andy Jackson, Web Archiving Technical Lead at the British Library

 

On the 10th of September the 2020 Domain Crawl got underway. The annual Domain Crawl usually takes about three months to complete, it visits UK published websites on a UK Top Level Domain (TLD) like .uk, .cymru, .scot, .london etc., any web content hosted on a server registered in the UK as well as all the records manually created by the UK Web Archive teams across the UK Legal Deposit Libraries

 

Update on crawl management

Due to the billions of URLs involved, the Domain Crawl is the most technically difficult crawl we run. As the crawl frontier grows and grows, the strain starts to show, particularly on the disk space required to store all of the status information about the URLs that have been crawled or are awaiting crawling. Worst of all, we found some mysterious problems with how Heritrix3 manages this information, meant that we could not safely stop and restart long crawls. We could usually restart once, but if we restarted again strange errors would appear, and sometimes these would be serious enough to cause the whole crawl to fail. Fortunately, in the last year, we finally tracked this down and updated the Heritrix3 crawler so that it can be safely stopped and restarted multiple times. 

This has made managing the crawler much easier, as we can stop and restart the crawl with confidence if we need to change the software or hardware setup. This makes managing things like disk space much less stressful.

 

Update on the crawl performance 

In the initial phase of the crawl, we threw in the roughly 11 million web hostnames that we have seen in past crawls, which then got whittled down to about 7 million active hosts. After this bumpy start and some system tuning, the crawl settled down and has been pretty consistently processing 250-300 URLs per second.  This is acceptable, but isn’t quite as fast as we would like, so we are analysing the crawl while it runs to try and work out where the bottlenecks are.

 

What we have collected so far

The figure below shows the URLs collected over time.

 

Graph illustrating the number of URLs downloaded in the 2020 Domain Crawl
Graph illustrating the number of URLs downloaded in the 2020 Domain Crawl

 

The rather jagged start shows where we were able to stop and start the crawl in order to tune the initial hardware setup, and the flatter ‘pauses’ later on are from other maintenance activities like growing the available disk space. The advantage of being able to re-tune the crawler as we go is shown by the way the line gets steeper over time, corresponding to the increased crawl rate.

 

In terms of bytes downloaded, we see a similar result:

Graph illustrating the number of TBs downloaded in the 2020 Domain Crawl
Graph illustrating the number of TBs downloaded in the 2020 Domain Crawl

 

As you can see, we are rapidly approaching 90TB of downloaded data, which corresponds to roughly 50TB of compressed WARC.gz data.

Despite starting the crawl relatively late in the year (due to issues around the COVID-19 outbreak), we are making good and stable progress and are on track to download over two billion URLs by the end of the year.

 

Follow the UK Web Archive on Twitter for the latest updates on the Domain Crawl and other web archiving activities! 

 

11 November 2020

How Remembrance Day has Changed

By Liam Markey, PhD Student, University of Liverpool and the British Library

This blog examines how attitudes to Remembrance (or Armistice) day have changed and evolved over the course of the 20th century and beyond. Read the previous blog on 'Militarism and its role in the commemoration of British war dead' for background on the wider research project.

100 Years
2020 marks 100 years since the erection of a permanent Cenotaph at Whitehall and the interment of the Unknown Warrior in his tomb at Westminster. Along with the 2-minute silence, which was first observed in 1919, and the adoption of the poppy as the symbol of British commemoration in 1921, these practices have been ever present over the past century; they have become intrinsic components of the British collective identity in what is, arguably, a relatively short period of time.

Alleviating suffering and grief
Initially, this commemoration of the dead of the First World War performed two distinct purposes: firstly, practices served to alleviate the suffering of those who had lost loved ones. The bodies of the fallen were not repatriated, so the erection of monuments extolling the sacrifices of the war dead served as focal points of grief and mourning in local communities. Secondly, Remembrancetide (the time of year in which British rituals of commemoration are enacted) was initially a period in which support for disabled ex-servicemen, and those left widowed or orphaned by the First World War, was to be generated. Through the sale of poppies or direct donations, the British public was able to provide financial support for those in need. Collective mourning, such as at the Cenotaph where the monarchy and politicians gathered, was a demonstration of unity and a national thanksgiving to the war dead.

Attitudes to commemoration are not static
Whilst commemorative practices have remained practically unchanged over the past 100 years (only the day on which they are observed has been altered, and for the duration of the Second World War national services were suspended), the same cannot be said for the historical context in which they have been enacted, nor for the thoughts and ideals of those who enact them.

Newspaper Analysis
Analysing the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror newspapers, I have been able to create a small “pseudo” historiography of British attitudes towards commemoration throughout the 20th Century. The text samples from the two newspapers that I have examined range from the 7th -14th November at ten-year intervals starting in 1928 and contain at least one mention of the terms “Armistice” or “Remembrance.” The choice to search within this temporal parameter and for these specific terms was a conscious decision made so as to ensure that texts relating to both Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday were collected and available for analysis. The intervals between samples was a deliberate choice so that each text is taken from a year in which a tenth anniversary of the First World War took place and, in theory, when coverage of the war in the media would be at a heightened state.

1928
The first text sample is taken from 1928, the ten-year anniversary of the signing of the Armistice in 1918 and provides the largest number of texts from any year. This is in most part due to the fact that the First World War was a relatively recent event at this point in time. The main emphasis of these texts is on how the British public can aid those left disabled by their experience of the First World War, either through donations to the British Legion’s poppy appeal or by direct purchasing goods made by ex-servicemen. The issue of ‘lasting peace’ is also brought up several times, with many believing that ten years having passed without another World War proves that the cause so many British soldiers died fighting for was not in vain. At this point in time, when commemoration was in many ways an expression of a commitment to peace, the majority of the British public seemed convinced that it was fulfilling its purpose.

1938
However, by 1938 the mood had shifted considerably. With another conflict looming there is less conviction in proclamations of the First World War having achieved this lasting peace. There is an increase in articles discussing the possibility of another war in the near future and the failings of the last 20 years in maintaining peace. There is a palpable anxiety present in the coverage of both the Mail and Mirror as British society faces the stark realisation that the lasting peace so many died for between 1914-18 is on the verge of dissolution.

1948
By 1948 this anxiety had yet to subside, and despite another recent victory over Germany and her allies there is little celebration or indication that the Second World War had done a better job in achieving peace than the First had done as too little time had yet passed. This sample provides a much shorter number of texts concerned with commemoration, and I am drawn to Jay Winter’s assertion that societies following the Second World War struggled to make sense of the carnage they had experienced as an explanation as to why this was the case:

The limits of language had been reached; perhaps there was no way adequately to express the hideousness and scale of the cruelties of the 1939-1945 war. (Winter, 1995, p.9)

In the wake of the First World War, commemorative practices were conceived so as to soothe the suffering of the bereaved and to attach value and meaning to the sacrifice of the war dead. The aftermath of the Second World War resulted in a disillusionment with this previous tradition as commemoration hinged on the maintenance of peace. Now it was clear that the ‘peace’ so many died to attain was a fiction, and perhaps the lack of coverage in this text sample is demonstrative of a contextual detachment felt in British society towards the commemoration of war. The overarching theme displayed by this text sample is that of a society disillusioned with the concept of war commemoration, yet perceived slights to tradition, such as “gigglers” at Whitehall, are still harshly condemned. Despite there being no overt celebration of the war dead, or victory in the two World Wars present in either paper, it is clear that the bare minimum of traditional commemorative practices were to still be respected and observed.

1958
The texts from 1958 greatly resemble those of 1928, where it was believed that a sufficient period of time had passed since the ending of the First World War and thus it was acceptable to again assert that lasting peace had been achieved. There are a few texts that discuss this idea of lasting peace, specifically one in the Daily Mail titled What a Difference 27 Years Make, which argues that the contrast between the present and 1931, both being 13 years removed from a World War, proves that society is on the right track to avoiding another global conflict.

Another important focus of texts from this period is the issue of the “200,000,” the last remaining veterans of the First World War, and what is perceived to be a lack of financial support from the government as they enter the later stages of their lives. After 1948, where overt reference to ex-servicemen in the texts was absent, this year’s sample brings them back to the fore, reminiscent once more of 1928’s sample. The difference here, however, is that the ex-servicemen mentioned in the texts collected prior to the Second World War focused on those who had been left disabled by their experiences of the First World War. In 1958, media coverage encompasses all ex-servicemen from the First World War due to their age – now that 40 years have passed since the Armistice, the advanced age of veterans now means they are all regarded as vulnerable and in need of assistance from the public, be they disabled as a result of the war or not.

1968 and 1978
Both 1968 and 1978 samples offer an insight to changing attitudes to the First World War in British society. The British mythology of the conflict that is firmly planted in modern popular imagination has its roots in the 1960s and 70s where a number of influential pieces of media were produced that transformed attitudes to the First World War.

Evident in both text samples is the widening divide between older and younger generations and their attitudes towards the commemoration of war, and wider ideas regarding the relevance of traditional commemorative rituals considering how much time had passed since the Armistice. Both newspapers wrestle with the idea that commemorative practices have become outdated and appeal only to a small minority of the population with personal connections to the First World War, with it being described as “too sentimental” to some. Despite these growing objections, large crowds are still in attendance at remembrance services, many of whom, as the Daily Mirror points out, are young people. These decades depict the future of commemorative tradition as being somewhat in doubt; with the Second World War receding into history, and the First even more so, there is a real feeling in the texts that the commemorative traditions conceived in the wake of the Armistice had started to become outdated.

1988 & 1998
By the late 1980s British interest in commemoration seems to have been reinvigorated, perhaps in no small part due to the Falklands Conflict of 1982, with both the 1988 and 1998 texts bearing a more nationalistic tone than previous samples. With memory of the First World War having all but passed from living memory, emphasis in the texts shifts from the personal stories of those who were directly affected by the conflict towards a more abstract concept of commemoration as an almost celebration of Britishness. Both newspapers in 1988 contain adverts from the British Legion that describe the observance of traditional commemorative practices as a “National Debt,” and especially in the Daily Mail there is a vast increase in articles containing inflammatory and accusatory language directed at those who are not 100% committed to participation. Whilst in 1998, the question of whether today’s youth are willing to die for their nation is repeated numerous times throughout Remembrancetide in the Daily Mail. 

21st Century
Leading into the 21st Century there is a sense that the initial meaning behind commemoration, which sought to provide support for those mourning the deaths of loved ones, has become outdated now that lived experience of the First World War has passed from the British population. There is a real danger that the language and symbols that vindicated the sacrifice of the war-dead in the wake of the conflict are more likely to inspire militaristic notions in the present day.

Poppies in a field

Summary
While brief, I hope this piece has demonstrated to some degree the fluid nature of British attitudes to commemoration in the 20th Century, and how these attitudes are somewhat representative of wider historical and social change. As my research moves forward it will be most interesting to see the relationship between ‘micro’ discourses and those disseminated by the British media.

Resources such as the UK Web Archive will prove invaluable in exploring these ‘bottom up’ approaches to commemoration, asking how language and symbols popularised in the wake of the First World War, such as the Remembrance Poppy, are reproduced within amateur online remembrance projects and how this usage potentially relates to issues such as nationalism and militarism. Often, mainstream representations of Remembrance focus on the unifying nature of commemoration, and it will be interesting to see whether analysis of materials produced by the average British citizen challenges or confirms this narrative.

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