Experts going transnational: education at world exhibitions during the second half of the nineteenth century
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis
This thesis investigates the educational sections of the great international exhibitions of the latter half of the nineteenth century. This thesis takes into account the participation of actors from France, Germany, Japan and the United States. Focusing on education experts, this thesis is a contribution to a sociocultural history of an intellectual and administrative elite in an age of early globalisation. World exhibitions were one of the major media for the transnational circulation of educational knowledge. The central question is why education experts from these four countries invested so many resources in order to prepare and visit world exhibitions. Why did they go transnational? The thesis proposes two answers. First, education experts used world exhibitions in order to appropriate the most advanced pedagogical models for their own institutional contexts. The concept of cultural transfers is a useful tool to analyse these appropriations. Knowledge circulation at world exhibitions made a crucial contribution to the institutionalisation of primary education and technical education. Second, education experts used world exhibitions to stage their own institutions on an international stage. The proud representation of the educational achievements of one’s own context was the final phase of successful cultural transfers. Educational displays became increasingly embedded in nationalist discourses. During the 1870s pedagogical know-how circulated relatively easily. Towards the turn of the century the self-representation of institutions became predominant. This original approach aims at furthering the understanding of globalisation in the nineteenth century. Still, the thesis argues that world exhibitions were in a large measure media for transnational professional discourses in many fields, including education.