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Memoria e Ricerca

A Reaper as a Catalyst: The Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Social Construction of Anglo-American Friendship

di Ursula Lehmkuhl
in Memoria e Ricerca n.s. 17 (2004), p. 141

During the nineteenth century hostile tensions between Great Britain and the United States were continually eased to a point, that at the end of the century both sides could speak of the existence of an Anglo-American “special relationship”. Since political transformations of such a fundamental nature are usually accompanied by concomitant mental and normative changes, the article addresses the following questions: Which processes of cultural transfer created the ideational and normative basis of the “special relationship”? How did they contribute to its social and cultural consolidation? And what were the media carrying these transfer processes? Since world’s fairs were an important medium of the nineteenth century and constituted global public spaces, the article argues that they also played a significant part in the structuring and transformation of global social and political relations. Through the mechanisms of visualization world’s fairs conveyed new modes of interpreting social reality. In their function as communicative or even mediating agencies, they carried the processes of cultural transfer necessary for the social construction of Anglo-American friendship which preceded the birth of the so-called “special relationship”.