Textures of Identity in the North of England
Edited by Christoph Ehland
In the 16th and the 17th century the annual Lord Mayor’s Show proved to be among the largest civic festivities that took place in London. The ritual of the shows aimed not only at celebrating the City and the Livery companies but also at symbolically coordinating the two power centres on the River Thames: as the newly elected Lord Mayor took his oath of allegiance at the Court of Westminster his journey up and down the river connected the King and the royal Court with the civic community in the City of London. This essay discusses the textual material commissioned by the Livery companies for the shows between 1585 and 1639. In this period the shows proved a potent display of the pride and self-confidence of the City of London. With the tensions rising in the decades before the Civil War, however, the coded language of these panegyric texts begins to echo the anxieties about the destabilising political system under Charles I. In fact, they reveal a defiant spirit of an increasingly self-assured and politically emancipated civic community.
Recent events in London have emphasised the fact that the commemoration of the two world wars of the 20th century represents a particularly significant but also touchy aspect of the British collective memory. Concentrating on the monuments and statuary which contribute to the city’s commemorative topography this essay aims to explore the ideologically sensitive zones in the centre of London. The discussion focuses on the cultural practices instrumental in claiming significant parts of wider Westminster as places of national memory. Particular space is given to the discussion of the controversial Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park and the subtle shift it marks in London’s memory of the wars.