Edwardian Premonitions and Echoes, April 2014
The second annual conference of the Edwardian Culture Network was held at the University of Liverpool on the 10-11th April, 2014. There were twenty papers, including a keynote lecture by Jonathan Wild (University of Edinburgh).
History is not like a bus-line on which the vehicle changes all its passengers and crew whenever it gets to the point marking its terminus. Nevertheless, if there are dates which are more than conveniences for the purposes of periodisation, August 1914 is one of them. (Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire)
At the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, how useful is it to think about the Edwardian era as ending decisively in 1914? Indeed, how helpful have conventional boundaries of periodisation been in our understanding of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century British culture?
Rather than viewing ‘the Edwardian’ as a fixed and isolated historic moment, this conference seeks to open up new ways of thinking about the premonitions and echoes of the Edwardian age. Just as the 1880s and 1890s can be interpreted as ‘proto-Edwardian’, so too the Edwardians can be seen to have anticipated many issues and debates of the present day, from coalition governments to trade unions, immigration acts to women’s rights.
Beyond the Garden Party: Rethinking Edwardian Culture
12th – 13th April 2013
It must have seemed like a long garden party on a golden afternoon – to those who were inside the garden. But a great deal that was important was going on outside the garden: it was out there that the twentieth-century world was being made. Nostalgia is a pleasing emotion, but it is also a simplifying one; to think of Edwardian England as a peaceful, opulent world before the flood is to misread the age and to misunderstand the changes that were dramatized by the First World War (Samuel Hynes, The Edwardian Turn of Mind).
More than forty years since Samuel Hynes wrote these words, many accounts and representations of Edwardian England still invoke the image of the garden party. Building on recent critical reappraisals, such as The Edwardian Sense (Yale 2010), and coinciding with the major Edwardian exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art, this interdisciplinary conference sought to examine this notion, and to explore the alternatives. Was there such a thing as a distinct Edwardian culture; if so, what were the forces behind it?
This two-day conference was held at the University of Durham (Friday 12th April) and the University of York (Saturday 13th April), and featured a series of papers and panel discussions on subjects ranging from railway posters to chivalric costumes, censorship to science fiction, and spiritualism to neo-Edwardian films. Our keynote speakers were Dr. Ysanne Holt (Northumbria) and Dr. Simon J. James (Durham).
Conference Booklet (containing schedule and abstracts): ECNconferencebooklet
‘Beyond the Garden Party: Rethinking Edwardian Culture’ was generously supported by the Centre for Modern Studies and the Humanities Research Centre (University of York), and Event Durham (University of Durham).