Everyday Imperialism: The Landscape of Empire, London, 1870-1939
Doctor of Philosophy
While many historians of the British Empire have dismissed the presence of imperial motifs and themes in Britain in the early twentieth century, this dissertation identifies and analyzes two discourses of Empire that shaped the material and cultural landscape of London during that period. Chapter one establishes several contexts relating to this period, including New Imperialism, as outlined by Disraeli and later, Joseph Chamberlain. As Disraeli?s New Imperialism evolved, it incorporated the national efficiency movement as a way to make the Empire modern and relevant while maintaining traditional social and political hierarchies, resulting in a cultural milieu of ?conservative modernity.? While uncovering these ideas in the imperial spectacle of the first four decades of the twentieth century, I employ aspects of critical human geography to demonstrate how those ideas inscribed themselves onto the urban landscape of London. Chapter two describes three royal Jubilees in terms of imperial spectacle. These events reflect an imperial ethos built on the concept of the Empire as modern, prosperous, healthy, and tasked by Providence with a civilizing mission. Once identified, I introduce seemingly opposite ways of talking about the Empire: discourses of exceptionalism, and discourses of degeneration and decline. I explain that these discourses manifest themselves in numerous cultural practices as well as official programs and policies that are then reflected in the urban landscape. A description of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924-1925 focuses on public and private responses to the dominant narrative of empire. Chapters three and four investigate exceptionalism and decline and provide examples of ?official? responses to these themes, as in the institution of new bureaucracies, such as the Ministry of Health, as well as from ?below,? as in the celebration of Empire Day. A close look at both formal and informal responses to these discourses of exceptionalism proves that patriotic imperialism was very much a part of the cultural and material landscape of London until 1939, when German bombs erased the landscape of empire, clearing the ground for the construction of a new landscape of nation.