The discourse of cosmopolitanism
in Country houses and the British Empire, 1700–1930
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British cosmopolitanism in the eighteenth century needs to be understood as the product not solely of individual experiences with the external world, but of the broader engagement of the elite as a whole. In country-house context, cosmopolitanism was not primarily intended to emphasise the particular locations to which the traveller had journeyed but, rather, to show his conformity with contemporary standards of taste. The demonstration of knowledge of a variety of global locations and cultures, including colonial ones, thus served as a marker of elite status. If the Regency marked the apex of the influence of exotic styles such as Egyptian and Indian, then it is tempting to see the remainder of the nineteenth century as marking a retreat. The fashion for Asian textiles was part of a broader trend favouring Asian cultural styles, which were seen both as alien and as something to be absorbed and assimilated.

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