Mediating Cultural Memory: Ireland and the “Glorious Revolution”

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Davis, L. (2018). Mediating Cultural Memory: Ireland and the “Glorious Revolution”. Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 47, 185-205. doi:10.1353/sec.2018.0014.

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DOI: 10.1353/sec.2018.0014
Memory studies
Eighteenth century literature
Traveling memory
Mediation of cultural memory

On 5 November 1688, William of Orange landed his force of 40,000 men at Torbay in Devonshire. Over the following month, he marched his troops to London, assuming control of the government as James II fled to France. This “Dutch invasion,” in Jonathan Israel’s phrase, would in time be reconceived as the “Glorious Revolution.” It would become, in other words, a powerful lieu de mémoire, a term coined by French historian Pierre Nora to designate “any significant entity, whether material or non-material in nature, which by dint of human will or the work of time has become a symbolic element of the memorial heritage of any community.” According to Nora, lieux de mémoire “emerge in two stages.” First, “moments of history” are “plucked out of the flow of history,” then are “returned to it,” but in an altered state so that they are “no longer quite alive but not yet entirely dead, like shells left on the shore when the sea of living memory has receded.” The 1688 Revolution was plucked out of then returned to history in such a way that it became a “symbolic element” not only of “the memorial heritage” of the English nation but of the British empire as well, as it was credited with saving the English nation from tyranny, establishing the rights of individual subjects, and bolstering British power overseas. As G.M. Trevelyan famously pronounced, the “Glorious Revolution” was a “turning-point in the history of our country and of the world.”

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