Abstract

By 1970, Britain was considered a world leader for its practice of cremation, which had by then surpassed the custom of burial. Yet even before, Britain's leadership in an international cremation movement seemed natural. Britain's prominence possessed a basis in politics and in memorialization practices long before it held a statistical basis. This study explores the acceptance of cremation and how the First World War and an Anglo-centric narrative played vital roles in this outcome. When Victorian cremationists first proposed "modern cremation," the term involved improving a ritual found in Britain's Empire. Progress represented an important task to those who confidently presumed the validity of the imperial "civilizing mission." While that attitude gave cremationists determination, it did not speak to a world ravaged by war. Therefore, what "modern cremation" entailed had to change, particularly after 1945, when an international movement needed to rehabilitate its reputation. The International Cremation Federation, having begun to rely on Britain's Cremation Society before the war, leaned on it heavily afterward, along with a revitalized "modern cremation" largely developed in Britain after 1918. Death was not necessarily denied but its symbolism demonstrably shifted away from the grim emblems associated with burial and reminiscent of a destructive war.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 557-579
Launched on MUSE
2009-03-21
Open Access
No
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