Flows for all mankind’: everyday life, the city and empire on the London Thames 1660-1830
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This thesis takes a material culture approach to exploring how the Thames was experienced from 1660 to 1830. It conceives of the river as a material object, constantly shaped by its designers, makers and users. The river was an essential part of the day-to-say lives of Londoners and visitors and framing the river as a kind of object allows an exploration of the material-human interactions on a number of different levels, from transformative changes to the river’s geography to more everyday contact at work, leisure and home. The thesis understands the river’s changing relationship to key transformations in Britain’s long eighteenth century as London became the metropolis of an expanding commercial and territorial empire. The first chapter addresses the redesigning of the river, tracing the building projects imposed by political and mercantile interest groups which transformed riverfront architecture with six new bridges and vast dock complexes and aimed to control how people experienced the river’s relationship to the nation and its growing empire. The second chapter uses watermen’s court records and criminal trials alongside material remnants of river work to show that watermen asserted an informal control over the river space which was increasingly eroded by the desire to secure imperial trade against theft. Chapter three explores the growing use of the river as leisure space, using diaries to identify quotidian leisure activities on the river. It highlights the increasing commercialisation of riverine leisure as boat trips and guidebooks proliferated. The final chapter uses objects depicting the Thames to show how the river filtered into everyday lives through consumption, often constructing a picturesque view for a polite audience. Like the other material engagements with the river, these objects constructed an experience of the eighteenth-century waterway which glorified commerce and obscured from everyday experience the realities of an imperial river.
AuthorsStockton, Hannah Melissa
- Theses