Staging Realms of the Past in 19th-Century Western Europe: Comparing Monumental Strategies of Middle-Class Nationalists

In: East Central Europe
Author: Helke Rausch
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Abstract

In large parts of late 19th-century Europe, monumental landscapes in the metropoles appear as public platforms where national realms of the pasts were invented. Public statues installed in Paris, Berlin and London would hardly express coherent national mentalities. They rather symbolize their initiator's propagandist attempts at defining the nation while they could be perceived quite controversially. Beyond state-dominated images of the nation in Berlin, there were attempts at referring to more liberal demands in the German national movement. In London, the seemingly consensual recourse to British Monarchy testifies to the fact that monument committees transformed the concept of monarchy into a common reference point of civic patriotism while public reference to the highly non-egalitarian social order was ignored. In Paris, the placement of national cult figures was even more part of a controversial process and hardly exemplified a constantly assured French nation. A comparative analysis of rhetorical strategies and their repercussions upon the public could add to a pluralistic European history of resilient nationalistic rhetorics and their questionable success in each case.

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