Curating the Nation: Gender, Class and Empire at the 1908 Franco-British Exhibition



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World War I dominates the historical narrative of early twentieth-century Great Britain. The people of the time lived their lives unaware of the upcoming conflict that waged devastating destruction across Europe. This dissertation considers the social, political, and economic context of the period through the analytical lens of the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908. It argues that the social elites in charge of organizing and implementing the exhibition did so as a way to cope with the growing effects of modernity at the turn of the century. The first decade of the 1900s saw Great Britain on the precipice of multiple transformations in the wake of modernization. In terms of foreign relations, the possibility of maintaining some form of isolationism proved increasingly less of a possibility. Germany’s growing power on the continent and the threat of Russian expansion facilitated a tentative alliance with France in the form of the Entente Cordiale. The Second Industrial Revolution brought changes in the means of production and witnessed the increasing size of the working class. Modernity also saw expanding conceptions of citizenship and the rights and responsibilities it entailed. This resulted in more groups previously excluded from the political process pushing for more participation and representation on the national level. The British Empire also changed in the period of modernization. Following the Boer War, many questioned the viability of the imperial project. Pro-imperialists aimed to convince people why the enterprise should continue. This dissertation considers these changes as it explores the details of the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908.



Franco-British Exhibition, 1908, Franco-British Relations, Anglo-French Relations, Exhibitions, World’s Fairs, Great Britain, France, London, Ireland, Irish Village, Entente Cordiale, Channel Tunnel, Marianne, Britannia, Bull, John, Industry, Working class, Social Elites, Modernism, Isolationism, Palace of Women’s Work, Lady Jersey, Anti-Suffrage, Philanthropy, Motherhood, Empire, Colonial Representation, Canada, Canadian Pavilion, Australia, Australian Pavilion, Imperial Federation, India, Indian Palace, Indian Arena, Ceylon, Crown Colonies, Flip Flap, Rational Recreation, Leisure