Bringing Egypt home
Children’s encounters with ancient Egypt in the long nineteenth century
in Pasts at play
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Ancient Egypt was much in the public eye throughout the nineteenth century. It was often presented as alien and other; however, this chapter explores exhibitions and texts that brought ancient Egypt into the familiar spaces of Victorian London and even the middle-class home. In guidebooks, fictional and non-fictional accounts of archaeological adventure, and picture books, Egyptian antiquity was packaged for children in domestic wrappings. Guides to the British Museum invite children to connect familiar biblical passages to artefacts on display, particularly quotidian items like shoes. In the fantastical Sydenham Sinbad (1857), Edmund Evans conflates Queen Victoria and Ptolemy, while inviting children to imagine themselves on a journey to ancient Egypt. Winter Evenings, or Tales of Travelers (1818) by Maria Hack and Fruits of Enterprize Exhibited in the Adventures of Belzoni in Egypt and Nubia (1824) by Sarah Atkins also bring Egypt into the home and interweave accounts of archaeological adventure with the domestic business of gardening and attention to familiar subjects such as school mottos. Mother Goose in Hieroglyphics (1849) wholly domesticates the ancient Egyptian writing system, and E. Nesbit’s time-travelling Story of the Amulet (1906) turns a quest for an ancient Egyptian artefact into a tale of family reunification.

Pasts at play

Childhood encounters with history in British culture, 1750–1914

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