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UAL Research Online

'The Autobiography of a Nation': The 1951 Festival of Britain.

Conekin, Becky (2003) 'The Autobiography of a Nation': The 1951 Festival of Britain. Studies in Design . Manchester University Press, Manchester. ISBN 0719060605

Type of Research: Book
Creators: Conekin, Becky

This social and cultural history focuses on the meanings of Britain and Britishness in the immediate post-WWII period. As I argued in Moments of Modernity, the historiography of the post-WWII Britain has been dominated by highly political narratives and cosy assumptions. As consciously constructed cultural and educational events, the Festival shows a society and a government struggling to recast national identity after WW II.

Primary research, initially funded by the U.S. Social Science Research Council, utilised documents from the Public Record Office, the Modern Record Office at University of Warwick, the Science Museum, the Thomas Cook Archive, and the Labour Party Archives, amongst others. Original films and BBC radio broadcasts, along with contemporary newspapers and journals, were used. I interviewed the Assistant to the Director of Exhibitions, Charles Plouviez, and Dr Peter Laslett, who made BBC Festival radio programmes. Employing interdisciplinary methods, I show that the official Festival events were more forward-looking and democratic than previously assumed.

This monograph covers the Festival’s history and historiography, its purpose, its representations of future and past, the role of London, the regions, and the ‘local’, the Empire and finally its legacy, in the Millennium Dome. The book contributes to modern British history and cultural studies, and also to design, material culture and architectural history. It examines the end of Empire, gender and consumption, and struggles between local, regional and national identities in post-war Britain.

Official Website: http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/catalogue/book.asp?id=1433
Additional Information (Publicly available):

Becky Conekin is a modern historian and all of her work shares questions of identity and its cultural formations in the 20th Century.

She co-edited and contributed to Moments of Modernity: Reconstructing Britain, 1945-1951 while still a PhD student. That volume combined social and political history, thinking through what modernity meant for post-war Britain. In The Autobiography of a Nation: The 1951 Festival of Britain, she used the 1951 events across the UK as a prism through which to analyse a society and a government recasting national identity after WWII. Then, initially under the auspices of the AHRB-funded, 'Fashion and Modernity' project, she worked on Lee Miller. Miller participated in key circles of modern art in New York, Paris and London, as a photographer, artist, model, gourmet and surrealist hostess. Miller was employed by Vogue, first as model and then as photographer and war correspondent, for the majority of her 25-year career.

Becky co-edited the special 10th anniversary Fashion Theory (March/June, 2006), dedicated to Vogue magazine and wrote on Miller there. Uncharacteristically, for an academic journal, that issue was mentioned in 'In Vogue' and received positive reviews in two UK weekend broadsheets. She has spoken on Miller in Berkeley, Paris, Florence, Philadelphia, Toronto, Cambridge and London and her work on Miller has been quoted in Numero. She is currently embarking on her second monograph, 'Model Girls' in 1950s London & Paris: Gendered Identities and Employment, for which she has received a British Academy Fellowship and she holds a Leverhulme Trust Grant for this project. She has held fellowships at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, CRASSH at the University of Cambridge, and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris.

Publisher/Broadcaster/Company: Manchester University Press
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Fashion
Research Centres No Longer Active > Fashion, The Body And Material Cultures Research Centre (FBMC)
Date: 2003
Related Websites: http://www.fashion.arts.ac.uk/becky-conekin.htm
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Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2009 22:02
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2010 09:08
Item ID: 1726
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/1726

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