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Title: The science of Parliament : building the Palace of Westminster, 1834-1860
Author: Gillin, Edward John
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 3079
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis examines science's role in the construction of Britain's new Houses of Parliament between 1834 and 1860. Architecturally the Gothic Palace embodies Victorian notions of the medieval and romanticized perceptions of English history. Yet in the mid-nineteenth century, the building not only reflected, but was involved in, the very latest scientific knowledge. This included chemistry, optics, geology, horology, and architecture as a science itself. Science was chosen, performed, trusted, displayed, contested, and debated through the physical space of government. Parliament was a place where science was done. Not only was knowledge imported to guide architectural construction, but it was actively produced within the walls of Britain's new legislature. I argue that this attention to science was not coincidental. Rather, it was a crucial demonstration of the changing relationship between science and politics. Science was increasingly asserted to be a powerful form of knowledge, and to an institution struggling to secure authority in the uncertainty of reformed British politics, it appeared a valuable resource for credibility. Contextualizing the use of science at Parliament in the political instability of the 1830s and 1840s emphasizes how the use of new knowledge was a potent practice of constructing political authority.
Supervisor: Whyte, William Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Westminster (London ; England)--Buildings ; structures ; etc. ; Science--Political aspects--History--19th century ; Architecture--Great Britain--History--19th century