This paper analyses the personal experiences of Dutch army members during military battlefield tours to historical war sites. We present a qualitative interview based analysis of the experiences and uses of the past by the Dutch military and discuss the tensions present in the military battlefield tours. In doing so, we argue for integrating research about cognitive procedures of re-enactment and bodily experiences on historical sites. Our findings suggest that the military battlefield tours help to evoke a specific placebound engagement with the past. Visits to former war sites evoke detailed and vivid images of the past. The historical landscape thereby provides external clues and arguments that assist in comprehending the course of a historical event. The multiple visual and sensual triggers on a historical site allow for cognitive and bodily knowledge and appeal to the participant’s imagination. How and to what extent the past is imagined strongly depends on the knowledge and cultural background of the participant, as well as the attempts of the participants to actively do something imaginatively with the material present on site. When trying to understand the emotional impact and consequences of warfare, the participants tend to identify with past actors, which sometimes generates dilemmas.

, , , ,,
Critical Military Studies
Arts & Culture Studies

Driessen, S., Grever, M., & Reijnders, S. (2019). Lessons of War. The Significance of Battlefield Tours for the Dutch Military. Critical Military Studies. doi:10.1080/23337486.2019.1651044