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The Old English Period

(84) We have in this article discussed various dimensions of memory and history and their possible uses and abuses in military pedagogies. To the extent that history in western military academies is studied to provide “prescriptions” for present (and possible future) battles, we argue that this is not only a very narrow conception of history, it is indeed an abuse of history. If this is all history amounts to, we lose sight of the possibilities. In addition, as we have seen, history understood in this way does not really work. It does not serve the purpose it is intended to do. The lessons to be drawn from history might be quite different ones from those that are usually drawn, as we hope to have shown.

(85) So what could history amount to in military academies? We think that students can be taught a quite different sense of history, its nature, scope, and relation to memory. At a minimum, the teachers of history in military academies should be aware of the dimensions that we have touched upon. And of course there might be other dimensions; we do not assume that our analysis is exhaustive.

(86) The concept of the duty of memory may be a good place to start for military personnel participating in, for example, peace-keeping international operations. All people have a collective memory and it would be a mistake to neglect it. After all, peace-keeping forces need to understand their surroundings, and a vital part of that is made up by the history of the region or country and of people’s collective memories, whether wounded or not. But this requires that history be taught in a different way in military academies. While an academy may not be able to teach soldiers precisely what a given group’s collective memories are, it can teach the soldiers the significance of such memories and the emotional power of commemorations.

(87) History and memory are not the same, although they overlap in significant ways. The academic subject of history is much vaster than collective or individual memory, and commands an array of scientific principles and normative considerations. History aims at truth, memory aims at faithfulness to the past. It is important to historians that Voltaire, referred to in the introduction, should not be right in his views about history. History, he said, teaches that which meets the conditions of memory. We have argued that it is vital for history (and for all actors on the international military scene) that history remains independent of and vaster than memory. History is needed as a corrective to and an expansion of memory and as a means of knowing what can be safely forgotten. On the other hand, teachers of history at military academies should pay some heed to Richard Evans’ (2004) views, whether they agree or not. Teachers of history may not be chroniclers of history, but they certainly are presenters. Are they, or should they also be, moral judges of history?

(88) We know that collective memories make up an important part of a group’s identity; they give people a sense of who they are, what heritage their ancestors left them, and perhaps a feeling of speaking for ancestors who were somehow wronged. Hence the duty of memory and the variety of commemorations we see around the world. But sometimes, we have argued, forgetting is just as important. This is a highly complex problem because it goes against what we do know about the importance of history for identity, and also against the duty of memory and the faithfulness to the past. However, sometimes a collective amnesia is necessary if wounded memories are to heal. This does not mean that people should erase all traces of their past and so completely forget it (should that be possible), but it does imply a kind of common agreement not to recall. It could also involve a possibility to revive other portions of the past; portions that have become inaccessible because the focus has been elsewhere. Quite possibly (academic) historians could have a contribution to make in such cases. We suggest that memory and forgetting and their apparently paradoxical relations are important subjects for history in military academies. And history as an academic discipline may make yet a contribution: it may indicate the moment of deserved forgetting. And of course, as we have said before, history may expand, complete, refute or correct both individual and collective memory.


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The Old English Period

The island was originally inhabited by Celtic tribes from Central Asia prior to the invasion by the Romans c. 50-100CE. Some of the Celts, a brave, fierce, and what we would call barbaric people, fled west over the mountains to what is now Wales and further over to Ireland. The rest stayed and intermarried with the invading Romans. The Romans brought architecture, art, "civilization," Christianity and most important, literacy. They stayed in the land, founding the cities that are today London (then Londinium) and Winchester, but during the fall of the Roman Empire c. 450-500 CE, the Roman soldiers left, leaving the now-softened Celtic people.

This left the natives open to attacks from the neighboring Picts (from what is today Scotland) and Jutes (a Germanic tribe). The Celts called for help from the Angles and Saxons, tribes from the area that is the modern Germany - Denmark area. The Angles and Saxons saved the Celts, but then turned against them and settled in England, becoming the Anglo-Saxons who lived in Angle-Land (-- England).

These Anglo-Saxons were brave, rude, reckless, adventurous and barbaric. They did not have much of a written culture, but they brought with them a rich folk-lore tradition, with long epics recited by scopes, the poets of the clan. These recitations, the earliest English Literature, were finally written down by Christian monks in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Anglo-Saxons used dialects that became known as Old English until about 1100.


While the Romans brought Christianity to the land, it was not until around 650 CE that England was fully Christianized. In 597 Saint Augustine of Canterbury converted the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. The native religions were dominated by the earth-based religion Druidism, but there were a number of smaller traditions being practiced. These were not destroyed, but pushed underground in greatly diminished numbers, only to be resurfacing in the later part of this century. Pieces of these older religions can be found throughout English literature.
Anglo-Saxon Poetry

There were a number of qualities found in Anglo-Saxon poetry:

· Heroic behavior is praised

· Almost no romantic love

· An overall effect to formalize and elevate language, often through the use of literary devices. For instance:

· Synecdoche: a part used to express the whole, or vice versa. Ex: 50 sails=50 boats

· Metonymy: the naming of a person, institution, or human characteristic by some object or attribute with which is closely associated. Ex: Crown, Majesty= Ruler

· kenning: a compound of two words in place of another. Ex: whale-road=sea, loaf-giver = king, life-house = body (elaborate descriptive phrases)

· litotes: ironic understatement; an emphatic expression through an ironic understatement. Ex: “he's no beauty."

· alliteration – words that begin with the same sound

· internal rhyme – a word within a line rhymes with a word at the end of the line

· A very common theme is "ubi sunt" "where have they gone?"

Ubi sunt - is a phrase taken from the Latin Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt?, meaning "Where are those who were before us?" Sometimes interpreted to indicate nostalgia, the ubi sunt motif is actually a meditation on mortality and life's transience.

· This was a rough, hard time of life. The average age for men was 45, for women, 36. It was not totally unusual to lose one's entire family to war, famine or some other calamity.

Many Old English poems glorified the real or imaginary hero and tried to teach the values of bravery and generosity.

The first English poet known by name is Caedmon, who lived during the 600s. His only authentic surviving work is “Hymn”, a nine-line poem that praises god.

The first major work of English literature is the epic poem “Beowulf”. One or more unknown authors wrote it in the 700s. The poem tells about the adventures of a brave hero named Beowulf.



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