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08 September 2020

Some traces of 'pageant fever' remain in evidence today, new research finds

Zaiba Hakim

A major Arts & Humanities Research Council funded project releases first edited collection book, ‘Restaging the Past’ devoted to the research of historical pageants in Britain.

Image: Book cover 'Restaging the Past'
Image: Book cover 'Restaging the Past'

A major Arts & Humanities Research Council funded project releases the first edited collection devoted to the research of historical pageants in Britain. The book, entitled Restaging the Past: Historical Pageants, Culture and Society in Modern Britain, has just been published in open-access form by UCL Press.

The research presented in the book forms part of a more comprehensive AHRC-funded project, 'The Redress of the Past: Historical Pageants in Britain', which recovered these pageants as one of the most important forms of popular and public history in 20th-century Britain, revealing the stories that communities told about themselves.

Historical pageants brought large numbers of people together in shared celebration and performance of the past. They were one of the most significant aspects of popular engagement with the history in 20th-century Britain. They took place in large cities, small towns and tiny villages, and engaged a range of different organised groups, from the Women’s Institute to the Communist Party.

Although the pageant tradition has declined, it was an essential aspect of community history during a period of significant social and political change. Indeed, as this book shows, some traces of ‘pageant fever’ remain in evidence today.

Commenting on the impact of the book's research, Professor Paul Readman and Principal Investigator of the project, said:

"The research shaped the cultural agendas of museums and other groups, as reflected in a series of exhibitions. It has effected a change in cultural programmes and led to new curatorial practices. It has led to real cultural and social benefit for individuals, organisations and community audiences, with a focus on co-production and strengthening the link between communities past and present."

"Finally, the impact of the project continues to evolve, most recently through the production of new cultural resources that draw on the musical and performance aspects of pageants."

We are delighted to announce the publication of this book, a truly collaborative effort that showcases the research done since 2013 by team members and associates of the Redress of the Past historical pageants project. We are particularly proud of the contributions made by early-career and independent researchers. Historical pageants are a fascinating element of modern British cultural history, and their story deserves to be better known.

Professor Paul Readman

The book is edited by project team members Angelia Bartie (Senior Lecturer in Scottish History, University of Edinburgh), Linda Fleming (Research Associate, University of Glasgow), Mark Freeman (Reader in Education and Social History, UCL Institute of Education), Alexander Hutton (Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, King’s College London) and Paul Readman (Professor of Modern British History, King’s College London).

Restaging the Past  can be downloaded directly for free via open access at UCL Press.


In this story

Paul Readman

Professor in Modern British History