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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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Chapter 6 Millennium London (2000-2012)


Chapter 6 Millennium London (2000–2012) On 6 July 2005, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced London’s selection as the host city for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. London’s competitors included New York, Moscow and Madrid, although its final rival after several rounds of voting was Paris. In Trafalgar Square, at least 10,000 people had gathered to watch the announcement of the winning host city on large screens at a ‘Thank You UK’ party, the largest of several of ficial celebrations across the country.1 The announcement of London’s success was met with euphoria in the Square, as athletes, of ficials, celebrities and the public celebrated. This moment of national delight and pride was expressed in a tone of disbelief in The Guardian, which glossed London’s win as a British one: ‘in these af fairs a rhythm has long been established: Britain goes for a big sporting event, Britain’s representatives insist they can get it, Britain loses horribly’.2 The next day, in the morning rush hour of 7 July 2005, four bombs went of f in London. Three exploded on Underground trains near Liverpool Street, Edgeware Road and Kings Cross stations. A fourth exploded on a bus in Tavistock Square, in central London, not far from the British Museum. This was a significant terrorist event even in a city with a history of bomb attacks, and fifty-two people were killed and around 770 injured.3 When 1 London 2012, ‘Rachel Stevens and Melanie C join thank you party in Trafalgar...

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