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Trafalgar Square and the Narration of Britishness, 1900-2012

Imagining the Nation


Shanti Sumartojo

London’s Trafalgar Square is one of the world’s best known public places, and during its relatively short history has seen violent protest, imperial and royal spectacle and wild national celebration. This book draws together scholarship on national identity, cultural geography, and the histories of Britain and London to ask what role the Square has played in narrating British national identity through its many uses. The author focuses on a series of examples to draw out her arguments, ranging from the Suffragettes’ use of the site in the early twentieth century to the Fourth Plinth contemporary art scheme in the early twenty-first. The book explores how different users of the Square have understood national identity, and how the site itself has shaped this narrative through its built elements and history of use. Ultimately, Trafalgar Square and the Narration of Britishness, 1900-2012 uses the Square to explore the processes by which urban public place can help to construct, maintain or transform national identity.


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This book began as a PhD thesis at the Australian National University, and so my first thanks must go to my supervisor and colleague Alastair Greig, who has been a consistent supporter and constructive critic and who I am now lucky to call a friend. Also at the ANU, David Bissell, Emmeline Taylor, Kate Lee-Koo and PhD comrades during my candidature have been supportive and generous. John Hutchinson and Greg Noble pro- vided very helpful comments on the thesis that I hope have improved the final product. At Peter Lang, Paul Ward has been invaluable as a series editor, a genuine pleasure to work with who has made this a much better book (although the inevitable mistakes I can only pin on myself ). Lucy Melville has been patient and extremely helpful, making the whole pro- cess run as smoothly as my miscalculations would allow. I also must thank the following archives and libraries for vital assistance: the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament collection at the London School of Economics Archives; the Anti-Apartheid Movement collection at Rhodes House in the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford; the Women’s Library at London Metropolitan University; the Trustees of the Mass Observation Archive, University of Sussex; the Newspaper Archives of the British Library; the National Archives in the UK; the National Library of Australia; and the Library of the ANU. If it takes a village to raise a child, it might also take one to write a book. Very special thanks are due to my parents...

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