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'Splendid Display; Pompous Spectacle': Historical Pageants in Twentieth-Century Britain

Freeman, Mark (2013) 'Splendid Display; Pompous Spectacle': Historical Pageants in Twentieth-Century Britain. Social History, 38 (4). pp. 423-55. ISSN 0307-1022. DOI UNSPECIFIED

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This article examines the organisation, nature and content of historical pageants in twentieth-century Britain. Focusing on four pageants at St Albans, Hertfordshire – in 1907, 1948, 1953 and 1968 – it considers the selection of historical episodes that were depicted, the role that pageants played in the life of the community, and the ways in which the relationship between past and present was presented. Pageants functioned as both education and entertainment, and were significant events in the creation of the public image of the city, although they could also provoke local controversy and dissent. They promoted a strongly local sense of identity, and civic pride was perhaps even more important to the post-war pageants than to those staged in the Edwardian period, as communities such as St Albans negotiated a period of rapid development and change in the 1940s and 1950s. However, the large-scale civic pageant that characterised the first half of the twentieth century rapidly declined in the late 1950s and early 1960s, proving less adaptable in the context of the cultural upheavals of the period. Subsequent pageants were on a much smaller scale than those that were staged before the mid-1950s, and adopted a different attitude to the national and local past.

Item Type: Article
Depositing User: Atira Pure
Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2014 14:26
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2015 09:13
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