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Cultural Memory of World War I & II


Admission requirements

Not applicable


The two World Wars created a traumatic rupture in the modern sense of continuity between past and present. Despite Winston Churchill’s 1946 call to “turn our backs upon the horrors of the past” and “look to the future”, the war past continued to haunt societies across the globe and its disturbing memories seemed to become even more vivid as the years went by. On the other hand, war memories were constitutive for new cultural and political identities. The imperative “Never again” became, in its negativity, a supplier of meaning and ethic orientation in itself and comparisons with political developments of the past continue to serve as patterns of a moral geography until today.

This course focusses on the comparative analysis of material and immaterial memory practices of the two World Wars. Departing from a transnational and comparative perspective, it explores the various ways in which the war past shaped post-war societies in Europe, Asia, North America and North Africa and examines how film, literature and architecture but also political and academic debates transferred the past into the present. Starting with a thorough introduction to contemporary memory studies, this course uses central theoretical concepts from this field as frames for each individual case

Course objectives

General learning objectives.

The student can:

  • organise and use relatively large amounts of information

  • reflect critically on knowledge and understanding as presented in academic literature

  • Learning objectives, pertaining to this specific lecture series. Upon completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • demonstrate familiarity with central theoretical and methodological concepts of contemporary memory studies

  • apply analytical concepts to concrete historical memory practices

  • contextualize 20st century memory practices within their social and cultural surroundings

  • demonstrate familiarity with the dynamics of remembering and forgetting in modern post-war societies.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


All learning objectives of the course will be assessed through two subtests:

  • Midterm examination (short paper)

  • Final examination (written examination with short open questions)


  • Midterm examination: 40%

  • Final examination: 60%


  • Students are allowed to take again those subtests that were marked insufficient. The resit exam will take place on one single resit, at which both subtests are offered. For this resit three hours will be reserved, so that students will be able to retake both subtests, if necessary.
    Please note that students can only take a resit when their final grade is insufficient. Subtests that were marked sufficient cannot be retaken

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Richard Ned Lebow et al., The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe, (Durham/NC: Duke University Press, 2006)

E-reader with articles on Brightspace Brightspace


Enrolment through My Studymap (Login | Universiteit Leiden) is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal