Myths and Anniversaries

Are historical stereotypes formed or dispelled by the likes of last year’s VE Day commemorations? William Buckingham answers as the winner of the Longman/History Today essay prize.

Historical stereotypes may well be buttressed or corrected by the celebration of anniversaries such as VE or VJ Day, but as the term is somewhat ambiguous, it may be advisable to establish exactly what constitutes an historical stereotype before tackling the question. It is logical to assume that the term refers to the current reflection of past and present popular opinions, garnered over time from a variety of sources. These encompass participant and/or eyewitness accounts, wartime and post-war propaganda and, especially in the post-war period, the popular media, although the latter two are unfortunately often indistinguishable. The sum of these influences, when viewed through national and cultural perspectives, form the basis for historical stereotypes, and it is upon this premise that the following is based.

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