Taking travel home

The souvenir culture of British women tourists, 1750–1830

Author: Emma Gleadhill

Taking Travel Home provides a cultural history of the travel souvenir. It situates the souvenir at the crossroads of competing ideas of what travel stood for which were fought out amongst a rapidly growing constituency of British tourists between 1750 and 1830. Drawing from the theory of the souvenir as a nostalgic narrative instrument, the book uncovers how elite women tourists developed a souvenir culture around the texts and objects they brought home to realise their social, intellectual and political ambitions in the arenas of connoisseurship, science and friendship. Key characters include forty-three-year-old honeymooner Hester Piozzi; thirty-one-year-old Grand Tourist Anna Miller; Dorothy Richardson, who travelled in England from the ages of twelve to fifty-two; and the Wilmot sisters who went to Russia in their late twenties. The supreme tourist of the book, Lady Elizabeth Holland, travelled to many locations, including Paris, where she met Napoleon, and Spain during the Peninsular War. This book is concerned with the whole gamut of objects these women and others collected, from fans depicting ‘the ruins of Rome for a sequin apiece’ and the Pope’s ‘bless’d beads’, to materials from Vesuvius and pieces of Stonehenge. Ultimately, the book argues that souvenirs are representative of female agency during this period. For elite women, revelling in the independence and identity formation of travel, but hampered by polite models of femininity and reliant on their menfolk, the creation of souvenirs provided a socially acceptable way to prove their contentious claims to the authority of the travelling subject.

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