Centre for Research in Communication and Culture


14 December 2016

The Spectacle of the Boer War on Stage, Screen, and in Song: a multi-media tour of London’s entertainment industries

Presented By Peter Yeandle
  • 1-2 pm (part of the CRCC Seminar Series)
  • Brockington U1.22

About this event

Several important studies have demonstrated the vital role of the illustrated press in disseminating information to the public about developments in the second south African war. Indeed: witness the rush of the press to publish war correspondents’ accounts and to illustrate events through cartoon, artists’ impressions, and photographs. Newspapers sought not only to convey knowledge, but to influence public opinion – to the extent that several political historians argue that the jingoism unleashed by war reporting meant the general election of 1900 (the so-called ‘Khaki’ election) could conceivably be described as a referendum on foreign policy. We know the Conservatives and Unionists won. However, we also know from a variety of contemporary accounts that the press was only one factor in the creation of patriotic fervour in response to the war (especially around the reliefs of sieges at Mafeking, Kimberley and Ladysmith). These accounts cite the theatres, the music halls - and other arenas for mass spectacle and entertainment - as crucial to the promotion of patriotism. The vast array of performance industries in turn of the century London propagated popular imperialism far more widely than print culture alone. By undertaking a tour of London’s performance venues, indoors and out, this paper tests out two ideas: first, that the immersive experience of performance culture itself merits analysis as a vital genre of broadcasting; second, that the study of the interrelationships of print and performance cultures enables us to think about the abstract concept of patriotism from within the context of histories of emotion.