Traditionally memory is defined as being like an archive. an archive of past situations, meetings, feelings etc that are stored for later recollections. However, so as not to forget all of these things humans make “memories”, like a backup copy of an event, this makes it easy to recall, Sadly these memories are not always reliable or accurate and very easily influenced. especially now in such a media saturated world.
In the early 1940′s Maurice Halbwachs a french philosopher looked in the the idea of memories, and how they are formed. What he came up with was that people form a “collective” memory generally in groups. he called this social memory, the idea being that people often form memories of group situations, and these memories are influenced by those around them. furthermore, he says that a crucially a group needs to use social memory to identify itself as a group, for example families and churches, who use collective memories for different reasons.
The Monarchy: The Jubilee and the Royal Wedding
Social Memory anchors its meaning of history in a variety of ways, it prevents change, helps institutions reproduce and reconfirms authority. In relation the monarchy we can take two key examples and use those to explain social memories way of anchoring itself.
In relation to the jubilee we can look at one key part of this celebration to social memory, firstly the idea of the street party. The street party is a ritual that has been associated with big “british” events since the end of WW II, in 1977 an estimated 10 million people took part in a street party for the queens silver jubilee, and in 2011 just 2 million people took part in street parties.
Social memory has firstly anchored the idea of the “street party” in to our culture, therefore preventing change, similarly the street paries are also a reproduction of an “institution” as they are created by a social institution.
At the time of the jubilee “british” merchandise was everywhere “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters were everywhere, why? because this very royal ceremony, something brought back a sense of “Britishness” and so, not only have the street parties constructed by reconfirmed a connection between past and present.
The Royal Wedding
Prince William and Kate’s wedding can be seen in a similar way, this time for the reaction from the public and the comparisons to the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana. Here social memory is evident just through the broadcast, whilst watching the small part of the ceremony I did watch, the commentators speculated on if the couple would kiss on the balcony, much like their royal predecessors.
Social memory has made this kiss a rite in that it is the rite of every new royal couple to go to the balcony to be shown off to the public. Marriage as an institution is something that reproduced through social memory, this high profile wedding helped reinforce the convention of marriage as less and less people are getting married each year. studies suggest women are 3 times less likely to marry and only 1 in 50 women will get married. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1250207/Marriage-rates-drop-lowest-level-1862.html The Royal Wedding boosted the popularity of the marriage, going up as much as 4%! (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/19/church-england-weddings-up)