1 Line drawings, black and white; 20 Halftones, black and white; 21 Illustrations, black and white
For historians centennial commemorations furnish an excellent heuristic tool for gauging late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century attitudes towards the past and the present. Centenary celebrations helped to revive, perpetuate and reinforce public perceptions of historical events and people in collective memory. They were fairly infrequent before 1850 but increased in size and numbers by the end of the long nineteenth century, so much so that a `cult of the centenary' had become established throughout the wider Western world around 1900. At one level, such events were ephemeral affairs. And yet many left a lasting legacy. Above all, as part of the contemporary processes of the `invention of traditions' and the conscious national `self-historicization' of the established nation-states, they offer crucial insights into the social, cultural and political dynamics of the period.