Spectacle, the Public and the Crowd: Pageants and Exhibitions in 1908

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This essay examines exhibitions and pageants in 1908. This year marked the pinnacle of public spectacle in the Edwardian period, encompassing the Franco-British Exhibition and the Olympic Games, both at White City in West London, and also an extraordinary number of commercial exhibitions, including the first Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition. For the fourth year running, local historical pageants were staged across England, spreading to Scotland and even Canada. In addition, the suffragettes put public spectacle to political ends in a series of spectacular parades. The use of spectacle, however, was not simply a top-down hegemonic process, despite its utilization by the state and various organizations for purposes of propaganda, in the coronationand other spectacular events. As Alison Light has pointed out, faced with “the staggering spectacle of the coronation . . . with all the sumptuous excess of a displayed Empire,” we need to “gauge the appeal of such imagery.” Thus the focus of this essay is the interplay between the Edwardian sense of spectacle and spectatorship.

This book was part of a project at the Yale Center for British Art funded by Paul Mellon.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Edwardian Sense
Subtitle of host publicationArt, Design and Spectacle in Britain, 1901-1910
EditorsMichael Hatt, Morna O'Neill
Place of PublicationNew Haven CT
PublisherYale University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Print)9780300163353
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Publication series

NameYale Center for British Art and the Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art
PublisherYale University Press


  • Spectacle
  • spectatorship
  • Pageantry
  • Pageants
  • exhibitions
  • international exhibitions
  • Ideal Home Exhibition
  • ideal Home Show


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