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Pieces of history : the past and popular culture in Victorian Britain, 1837-1882

Pieces of history : the past and popular culture in Victorian Britain, 1837-1882 / Lyndsey Rago Claro.
[Newark, Delaware] : [Department of Philosophy in History], [2011]
Physical Description
xi, 262 pages
This dissertation studies the cultural underpinnings of the Victorian period's official, government recognition of the critical importance of preserving the past. Coming to this recognition throughout the mid-nineteenth century, the role of historical sites, practices, and culture in contemporary life were vigorously debated, illustrated, and demarcated throughout popular culture. Romantic images of the past filled British journalism, tourism, art, literature, and politics in the mid-nineteenth century, and growing technological and cultural innovations created an atmosphere where the public experienced history in a number of new ways. Victorians searched for representations of the past that appeared authentic. This quest for genuine--and spectacular--forms of history led to vigorous debates in popular culture regarding authenticity, as well as the creation of protected historic sites and monuments. This dissertation uses four cases studies to reflect the atmosphere of historical awareness in Victorian culture. The Eglinton Tournament of 1839 celebrated an "authentic" medieval past in Victorian Britain. This search for authentic history was mirrored through consumption of food, and tourist spectacles such as Madame Tussaud's Waxworks. Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth period was a contentious topic in the Victorian press, in particular when the popular press debated whether to include a statue of Cromwell at the new Houses of Parliament in 1845. While the Indian Rebellion of 1857 was a contemporary event, it was interpreted in newspapers, theatre, and art as historical, fitting actors and events of the Rebellion against a backdrop of medieval British chivalry. Finally, Stonehenge was a popular tourist site in the nineteenth century, but antiquarians also feared its destruction through visitor damage. This fear produced considerable debate in Parliament and the press regarding national protection of historic sites. The ultimate passage of the Ancient Monuments Protection Act in 1882 codified Britain's view of the value of the past and set the stage for the Preservation movement of the late nineteenth century. Ultimately, this dissertation argues that historical awareness was a lived experience in Victorian Britain--embedded in the minds and lives of Victorians, debated in the press, and imagined through Victorian popular culture.
Added to Catalog
February 28, 2014
Thesis note
Ph.D. University of Delaware, 2011.

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