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History, heritage and tradition in contemporary British politicsPast politics and present histories$
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Emily Robinson

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780719086311

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719086311.001.0001

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Structures of Memory: Parties and Their Pasts

Structures of Memory: Parties and Their Pasts

(p.47) 2 Structures of Memory: Parties and Their Pasts
History, heritage and tradition in contemporary British politics

Emily Robinson

Manchester University Press

Chapter two examines the ways in which parties explicitly attempt to structure and preserve memory, through written histories, commemorations, party history groups and archives. It finds a striking degree of similarity between the three principal parties. Whilst there are differences of detail, of emphasis and of ideology, the overall picture is surprisingly homogenous. Whereas the parties once displayed ideologically distinct approaches to recording the past, their attitudes have now converged. This is a consequence of the increasing professionalisation of political parties, which tends to bring them together under a shared parliamentary narrative. It is significant that the widest divergence between the mnemonic cultures of the parties occurs at local level. Moreover, memory is largely maintained by a small group of interested individuals, outside the official party structures. This could be seen as institutional history recovered and preserved through individual memory work, rather than ‘institutional memory’ in any formal sense.

Keywords:   Structures of memory, Archives, Commemoration, Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrat Party, SDP, Socialist history

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