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The Past in the Present

Proceedings of the 5th Annual British and Cultural Studies Conference, Oldenburg 1994


Jens-Ulrich Davids and Richard Stinshoff

The past is booming. Everywhere we can observe how people make use of their past, even if they have to invent it. Old and new nations do, large groups do, individuals do. This construction of history is both a political act and an act of identity formation. In Britain, this has led to a broad preoccupation with the national past as it is presented in refurbished country houses, rebuilt wharves and docks, in popular historical novels and films, in social history museums and more, spawning a veritable heritage industry.
The essays in the book have developed from papers given at the 5th Annual British and Cultural Studies Conference in Oldenburg in 1994. Their topics range from social history museums to Charter 88 and the labour movement, from images of the nation in Shakespeare's time to present-day metahistorical fiction, from the resurgence of ruralism to the suffragists and what feminism may learn from them, from the presentation of history in British TV drama to the presentation of Britain in German textbooks over the last 200 years, from Sean O'Casey's autobiography to the 'past in the present' in Northern Ireland.
Contents: The past in contemporary British Culture: Social history museums in Britain - Charter 88 and the labour movement - Suffragettes and suffragists - Neo-ruralism in Britain - British TV drama - Britain in German English textbooks since the 18th century - History in contemporary British novels - Sean O'Casey - Shakespeare - Northern Ireland.