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The Meaning of Madingley: Anglo-American Commemorative Culture at the Cambridge American Military Cemetery

Cross, Graham (2020) The Meaning of Madingley: Anglo-American Commemorative Culture at the Cambridge American Military Cemetery. Journal of Transatlantic Studies. ISSN 1479-4012 (In Press)

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Abstract

On completion in 1956, the design of the Cambridge American Military Cemetery at Madingley intentionally downplayed individual sacrifice in favour of an emphasis on government-led collective endeavour to uphold national ideals. The design commemorated the defeat of the Axis but in the Cold War also reaffirmed these ideals to allies and ideological enemies alike. Yet from the beginning, the meaning of Madingley has been fluid, negotiated and transcendent of the original fixed design. This article explores the impact of major social and cultural change, the rhetorical activity of politicians, institutional imperatives and the desires of local host communities on the meaning of this major node of Anglo-American commemorative culture. In doing so, it traces the growth of an emphasis on individual service and sacrifice that has replaced the original focus on government-led national enterprise with a more portable meaning able to support the desires of different commemorative constituencies. American politicians have used this to garner support for their policies, institutions have used it as a survival strategy and the host nation has used it as a comforting mask to obscure awkward disparities in national power. Although the commemorative meaning of the site has changed radically, it remains a window on the wider conservative dynamics of Anglo-American commemorative culture.

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