The centenary commemorations of the Great War in Belgium


  • Nico Wouters



History, Belgium, First World War


As the start of the centenary commemoration of the First World War (wwi) in 2014 drew closer, Belgium saw the rise of a bigger ‘commemorative competition’. The different governments launched their own commemorative programmes, parallel to (and sometimes against) each other. In the slipstream of this, a huge commercial and business competition erupted in a struggle for funding and visitors. There was also an unprecedented funding of new academic wwi-research.

This contribution first makes some remarks on this research, and then looks briefly at the commemorative and memorial policies. On the one hand, current wwi policies confirm (and reinforce) the differences in similar policies related to the Second World War. The narratives, as well as the moral or didactic categories, are clearly distinct. On the other hand however, there are some similarities to be found in the policy frameworks created after 1995. Some characteristics of such policy mechanisms are a more pro-active role (national) authorities adopt in the construction of memories, a strong interconnectedness between public and private interests and an underlying driving meta-narrative of a national duty to remember connected to the target of an emotional and active investment of each individual citizen. 


This article is part of the forum 'Commemorating War 100 years after the First World War'.


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How to Cite

Wouters, N. (2016). The centenary commemorations of the Great War in Belgium. BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, 131(3), 76–86.