This article uses the U.S. bicentennial as a case study to develop two themes about U.S.-British relations in the 1970s. First, the performative framework of commemoration was of considerable importance to the “special relationship.” The U.S. and British governments effectively used the bicentennial of an Anglo-American war to enact and popularize a distinctly useful historical narrative—a story of bilateral unity and strength, shared culture, eternal peace, and friendship—that was useful during the Cold War. Commemoration of the bicentennial signaled British recognition that historical and cultural ties offered a robust source of influence in Washington. Second, as the zenith of Anglo-American cooperation during World War II faded in collective memory, the political salience of commemorative events increased during the Cold War. They became contributory to and constitutive of a continually renewing public narrative of “special” Anglo-American relations that interwove times past, present, and future.

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