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Nelson the Hero and British Masculinities 200 Years On

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Discussion of how the memory of Nelson was first observed, recorded, read, constructed, reconstructed and reinforced is a task open to any historian of nineteenth-century Britain – indeed, there have recently been many such studies, prompted by the 2005 Bicentennial of the Battle of Trafalgar. However, it is often overlooked that the collective memory of Nelson continues to be built in the twenty-first century. His image has now, in a process spanning the last two centuries, been essentialised, extrapolated, and used in a wide variety of ways to navigate masculinity by both genders. Nelson has now become the ultimate symbol for a variety of white British masculinities. Modern, unmediated representations of Nelson on the Internet, finding their roots in nineteenth century representations, have taken the original meanings and reframed them, emphasising different significant aspects of each. The result of this is that Nelson becomes a lieu de mémoire, a site of memory for a consistently large number of people, but in different capacities, with different emphasis; the image and the memory of Nelson, already accessed at multiple sites in time and space, has now been exponentially expanded.

This talk is part of the Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History series.

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