It has been said that a country’s culture is a window unto its soul. With this in mind, it has become commonplace for scholars to try and interpret a country’s history and national character through its art and literature, and other intellectual achievements by the society’s so-called elite. Over the past several decades, however, there has been a growing acceptance in academic circles that a great deal can also be learned about a country and its people by studying its related popular culture, including material objects often viewed as ephemera and lacking intrinsic worth. These include many items usually dismissed as colourful but essentially valueless collectibles, such as comic books, pulp fiction magazines, postcards, posters, stamps, coins, trading cards and matchbox labels.

Military medals and decorations are awarded by governments for specific services to the state, so in that sense they are not artefacts of popular culture, shared by mass populations. However, they are often included in this broad category and, like the other objects mentioned above, do not always get the attention from researchers that they deserve.

Please click here to read the full “Foreigners, fighting and phaleristics: Military medals in British Burma” article published at the Tea Circle, written by Griffith Asia Institute Adjunct Professor Andrew Selth.