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Title: The great exhibition of 1851 : making sense of the world
Author: Young, Paul Kristian Frederick
ISNI:       0000 0004 2688 7367
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2002
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My thesis attends to economic, scientific, imperial, cultural, and religious modes of thought which underpinned the Great Exhibition, focusing particularly upon the mid-nineteenth century discourse of political economy. It offers a critical analysis of a broad scope of literature, ranging from texts concerned specifically with the Exhibition to works of fiction which reflect concepts, motifs, and issues pertinent to this example of Victorian visual culture. The Great Exhibition of 1851 can be understood as an event which was intended to provide visual form to a narrative of capitalist progress, a story which told of the material advance and metaphysical improvements inherent to an international division of labour. Exhibition commentary suggested that through the systematic revelation of global industry, the display would make sense of the way the world should work, indicating an autochthonous, providential symmetry to international commerce, and highlighting particular goods, industrial practices, and technologies which would provide the foundations for a dynamic, mutually beneficial global capitalist order. The study examines writing which did indeed herald the display as a systematic rendition of human industry, underpinned by a coherent, cogent, and universally comprehensible narrative. However, it also analyses commentary which laid emphasis on the bewildering nature of the spectacle, pointing to an absence of commercial sense and narrative. The fact that the display was not universally seen to evince the story which political economy would tell of the industrial world manifests the limited nature of this narrative. Moreover, it draws attention to the fact that only through metropolitan intervention and coercion could such a story be told. The project considers the Great Exhibition in terms of industrial capitalism's desire to create a world after its own image; it also demonstrates the complexities and difficulties which characterised such a representational endeavour.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available