The Historian …on heroes and hero-worship.
Founder’s Day 2013
‘The hero is life in all its potentialities: hence he is poet, prelate, king or god, according to circumstances.’ (Eric Bentley)
In a year that has seen the discovery of Richard III’s remains and the death of Margaret Thatcher, the History Society debated the question; “What is a hero?” Members each put forward convincing arguments for the greatness of their own personal heroes in history, and familiar names were brought up: Churchill, Nelson. It soon became clear that our historical heroes shared common characteristics, such as bravery and sacrifice, and the discussion moved on to the question; “What is the purpose of a hero?” It was interesting to consider that a hero’s reputation is a cultural construction that reflects the values and ideologies of the society in which it is revered. Thus, what makes a hero changes over time, as shown quite clearly by the articles collected together in this Founder’s Day edition of The Historian. My personal hero is Edith Cavell, a nurse in the First World War, who was executed for helping around two hundred Allied soldiers escape from German occupied Belgium in 1915. She both demonstrates the characteristics of bravery and sacrifice necessary of a hero, but is also of great interest to me in the way that she has been commemorated, as her life was used to garner support for the women’s suffrage movement. A memorial statue stands in St. Martin’s Place, just off Trafalgar Square and shows Cavell in her nurse’s uniform, with the
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