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Classical Imagery


How did the First World War draw upon classical imagery?

This month we are joined by Giles Penman (PhD student at the University of Warwick) to discuss the various ways that classicism manifested itself in imagery and objects before and after the conflict. Along the way we discuss the use of Britannia as a recruitment icon, different claims to civilisation, and some unusual appearances for Queen Victoria.


Carden-Coyne, A. Reconstructing the Body: Classicism, Modernism and the First World War. OUP, 2009

Dresser, M. Britannia. In R. Samuel (Ed.), Patriotism: The Making and Unmaking of British National Identity: Volume III: National Fictions. Routledge, 1989.

Fantauzzo, J., & Nelson, R. L. Expeditionary Forces in the Shatterzone: German, British and French Soldiers on the Macedonian Front, 1915–1918 in Beyerchen, A & Sencer, E (Eds) Expeditionary Forces in the First World War. Palgrave, 2019

Hall, E. British Imperialist and/or Avatar of Welshness?: Caractacus Performances in the Long Nineteenth Century. In F. Kaminski-Jones, & R. Kaminski-Jones (Eds.), Celts, Romans, Britons: Classical and Celtic Influence in the Construction of British Identities. OUP, 2020

Hall, E., & Stead, H. A People’s History of Classics: Class and Greco-Roman Antiquity in Britain and Ireland 1689 to 1939. Routledge, 2020

Laqueur, T. The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains. Princeton University Press, 2015

Laqueur, T. Memory and Naming in the Great War. In J. R. Gillis (Ed.), Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity. Princeton University Press, 2018

McCartney, H. Citizen Soldiers: The Liverpool Territorials in the First World War. CUP, 2005 

Mosse, G. Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the memories of the world wars. OUP, 1990.

Oliver, G. ‘Naming the Dead, Writing the Individual: Classical Traditions and Commemorative Practices in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries’. In P. Low, G. Oliver, & P. J. Rhodes (Eds.), Cultures of Commemoration: War Memorials, Ancient and Modern. OUP, 2012 
VanDiver, E. Stand in the Trench, Achilles: Classical Receptions in British Poetry of the Great War. OUP, 2013

Other episodes

Oh What a Lovely War

What happens when three historians watch a key play about the First World War?

Egyptian Encounters

What opportunities did the First World War provide for cultural tourism?

War Hospital

What happens when you turn a First World War medical process into a computer game?