Nation, empire and ethnicity
in The Great Exhibition, 1851
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The Great Exhibition, as is often the case with events of national significance, offered Britain an opportunity to reflect on her position in a global context. The fear of ethnic and cultural difference was rampant in Exhibition literature. One of the obvious attractions of the Exhibition was the opportunity to see the exotic produce of distant lands in propinquity with British manufactures: this was to be a whistle stop tour of the globe. The extract taken from The Times bemoaned the utilitarian nature of British products but championed the nation's advancements in mechanisation. In 1807, an Act of Parliament had abolished the slave trade in the British Empire, although it was not until the Emancipation Act of 1833 that slave ownership was made illegal. Britain exerted its status on the world stage to influence other nations to follow suit, and by 1851, slave-owning America looked increasingly out of step.

Editor: Jonathon Shears

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