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The Inglorious Arts of Peace

The Inglorious Arts of Peace: Exhibitions in Canadian Society during the Nineteenth Century

Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 432
  • Book Info
    The Inglorious Arts of Peace
    Book Description:

    The exhibition was one of the great nineteenth-century projects for improving the world. Combining the Victorian virtues of communication, co-operation, and competition, it promised to advertise the choice products of civilization to a receptive public.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8150-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-9)

    Exhibitions are not the stuff of traditional historiography. Long dismissed as too ephemeral and frivolous for serious historians, they were left to local historians who unearthed details about the dates of the first county shows, the prizes offered, and who ran the refreshment booths. Cultural theory has changed all that. After all, Victorians attributed great economic, political, and cultural importance to exhibitions and pleaded to be judged by these curious displays. Ponderously they weighed exhibitions down with ideological and historical burdens that cultural theorists now vigorously debunk. Unfortunately, too many theorists content themselves with examining the exhibition as a cross-section...

  5. 1 The Theory of the Exhibition: An Overview
    (pp. 10-28)

    Before tracing the history of exhibitions in Canada, it may be useful to identify what an exhibition was. Reduced to its distinctive abstract qualities, the exhibition was a competitive means of circulating knowledge and artifacts simultaneously. It resembled traditional mechanisms of economic circulation – the market and the fair – but was intended to be more explicitly educational. The exhibition was an idea that the heirs of the Enlightenment imposed on market activity. This introductory chapter discusses the ideological origins of the exhibition as an Enlightenment project to improve humanity, as well as some of its implications. It identifies the...

  6. Part One: Exhibitions in Central Canada

    • 2 The Early History of Exhibitions in Canada, 1789–1837
      (pp. 31-51)

      The period from the late eighteenth to the early nineteenth century was one of economic and social upheaval in Europe and in Canada. In Western Europe and especially in England, economic conditions changed significantly: ‘For good or evil, Britain’s countryside was being kneaded like dough.’¹ As population growth increased demand, yields rose: between 1750 and 1770, mean gross yield per acre was 18 bushels of wheat; by the years 1795 to 1800 the yield had risen to 21½ bushels; by 1810, to 23 bushels; and by 1850, to 28 bushels.² B.A. Holderness attributed this increase to open-field cultivation, new fertilizers...

    • 3 Exhibitions as Politics in Central Canada, 1841–1891
      (pp. 52-78)

      After the rebellions, Canada was reconstituted with one legislature to serve both provinces, its representation equally divided between Canada West, as Upper Canada was now called, and Canada East, the new name for Lower Canada. French Canadians were outnumbered in this legislature by the combination of representatives from Canada West and English-speaking members from Canada East, a situation that was meant to hasten the political and economic assimilation of the French. This absorption did not happen: instead, reformers from Canada East and Canada West collaborated to achieve responsible government and a host of ‘modern’ educational, legal, and political institutions.¹ Agricultural...

    • 4 The Provincial Exhibitions and Economic Development, 1846–1893
      (pp. 79-105)

      From mid-century on, there were a number of large-scale provincial exhibitions. They were a logical outgrowth of the county fairs and encouraged exhibitors to raise their sights, but they also changed the dynamics of the fair. The exhibition expanded to accommodate economic and cultural diversification and became more than a simple farmers’ festival. Exhibits now included industry, fine arts, natural history, fancy-work, and many oddities to bemuse the judges and amuse the audience. The spectators were no longer humble farming folk anxious to raise plumper porcines: By the end of the century, hundreds of thousands queued behind the turnstiles leading...

    • 5 Exhibition Culture
      (pp. 106-138)

      The story thus far has chronicled the struggle for control of the developing exhibition bureaucracy in Canada, with farmers, politicians, journalists, and professional improvers all vying for power. But the organizers of exhibitions were not their authors in any historical sense. The paying visitors determined the success or failure of these events. Historical agency, in other words, lay with the audience rather than the organizers of exhibitions. Recent work in reception theory rejects a dichotomy between autonomous cultural texts and passive readers or consumers of the text by collapsing the distinction between cultural production and consumption and by declaring use...

  7. Part Two: Canada at the International Exhibitions

    • 6 International Exhibitions and Canadian Nationality, 1851–1867
      (pp. 141-181)

      The international exhibitions provided the developing colonies of British North America with an opportunity to construct a self-identity and to broadcast it to the world. Exhibitors dreamed of astonishing visitors by their spectacular displays of natural wealth, manufacturing skill, and cultural and scientific genius. With elaborate arrangements of artifacts, pushing pamphlets, and grandiloquent attendants, they concocted descriptions to beguile immigrants and capitalists or simply to impress the popular audience. But if exhibitors and organizers had a great deal to say to the world, they also had a lot to learn from it. The sight of a neighbouring colony’s economic strengths...

    • 7 Exhibitions in Europe after Confederation and the Commodification of Canada
      (pp. 182-217)

      Chapters 7 and 8 focus on Canada at the international exhibitions in Europe and North America until the end of the century. This division of the material interrupts the chronology somewhat, but it does so to reflect the two kinds of displays that Canadians made. Exhibitions in Europe were dominated by the government because of the expense of transatlantic shipping and the relative disinterest of most Canadians. After Confederation, the Canadian government no longer purchased the displays sent overseas, but orchestrated them and spent increasingly large sums of money employing a growing army of reporters, organizers, and exhibitors to ensure...

    • 8 Exhibitions in America after Confederation and the Commodification of Everything
      (pp. 218-256)

      The North American exhibitions were shrines to the majesty of the United States, but Canada sought a small slice of reflected glory. Canada’s exhibits were tiny compared with those of the United States, but they showed great strength in some strategic categories in which Canadians had competed against the Americans for years. Again, government led the way, rousing ‘apathetic’ exhibitors as it advertised itself as much to Canadians as to the world. But it had less control over the total representation than at European exhibitions. For a start, these shows were too big. They embraced every aspect of life, many...

  8. Part Three: Exhibitions and Identities

    • 9 Women and the Political Economy of Exhibitions
      (pp. 259-284)

      The Victorian lady was expected to confine her activities to the domestic sphere, rearing children and running the household. She was discouraged from voting, from labouring for wages, even from speaking publicly. Many women fought these restrictions, on many different fields of battle. Temperance and reform activities, mock parliaments, and other forms of political activity by Victorian women have already been studied by historians, but another important battlefield was the exhibition. Most exhibitions had a special Ladies Department, where women’s expertise was recognized and honoured. Rows of preserves, freshly baked loaves of bread, delicately embroidered fabrics, and hand-sewn quilts testified...

    • 10 Making a Spectacle: Exhibitions of the First Nations
      (pp. 285-310)

      This chapter examines the convergence of two examples of what one might call the ‘spectacularesque’: exhibitions and Indians. This ungrammatical but useful neologism has been coined from two contradictory theories of action. Bakhtin used the term ‘carnivalesque’ to refer to discourses and acts that parodied and subverted the dominant order or idiom, while DeBord defined the spectacle as a medium that bolstered the capitalist order by reducing culture to a display at which alienated and isolated consumers passively gazed.¹ This book suggests that the spectacle did not lend itself so easily to hegemonic purposes. Designed to educate popular taste, the...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 311-316)

    The concept of the ‘exhibition’ is a reasonably coherent and bounded one, but exhibitions took many different historical forms, even in the confines of the nineteenth century. Some were small, rural affairs, with half a dozen exhibitors and a sparse crowd of farmers, while others were gigantic extravaganzas with millions of participants from all walks of life. For the historian, exhibitions offer a magnificent prospect for studying the material culture, symbols, values, and activities of nineteenth-century people, but their significance is difficult to quantify. They were idealized representations of the world which were expected to reshape the world in their...

  10. Appendix: Tables
    (pp. 317-324)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 325-394)
  12. Note on Sources
    (pp. 395-396)
  13. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 397-398)
  14. Index
    (pp. 399-412)