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‘History taught in the pageant way’: Education and historical performace in twentieth-century Britain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alexander Hutton, Paul Readman

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-179
Number of pages24
JournalHistory Of Education
Issue number2
Early online date17 Oct 2018
Accepted/In press24 Aug 2018
E-pub ahead of print17 Oct 2018


King's Authors


Historical pageants were important sites of popular engagement with the past in twentieth-century Britain. They took place in many places and sometimes on a large scale, in settings ranging from small villages to industrial cities. They were staged by schools, churches, professional organisations, women’s groups and political parties—and other organisations too—and were among the many informal educational activities that occupied British associational life in the twentieth century. This article examines the involvement of educational organisations in historical pageantry, and the sometimes uneasy relationship that pageants had with academic history. It draws on contemporary studies of heritage and performance to explore the blend of history, myth and fiction that characterised pageants, and the ways in which they both shaped and reflected the self-image of local communities. Pageants lived long in the memories of those who performed in and watched them, and were themselves often commemorated in memorials and subsequent events. They were important channels of popular education as well as entertainment and, although they are sometimes seen as backward-looking and conservative spectacles, this article argues that pageants could be an effective means of enlisting the past in the service of the present and future.

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