Tea with the Romans - Representation of the Romans in the Edwardian Historical Pageants -

Ms Ayako Yoshino

Saturday, 6 December 2003; 7:30-9:00pm

Chetwynd Room, King's College

Starting in 1905, the Historical Pageants Vogue spread like wildfire across England. Drawing thousands of amateur performers, the pageant was variously praised as a vehicle for "good" patriotism, a tool of civic education and a promoter of democracy.
This paper examines the representation of the Romans in the Edwardian historical Pageant. As an imperial nation, Edwardian England identified itself with the idea of imperial Rome. However, a close reading of the pageant scripts shows that the representation of Roman Britain posed difficulties as well as opportunities to glorify Britain's imperial present. In particular, identifying with the Roman invader had to be reconciled with the subjugated Britons' status as the indigenous people of the British mainland. In an acutely racially conscious age, how did the Edwardian pageant makers reconcile their audience to the depiction of a group that might be identified as their ancestors, as barbarians in need of civilisation and improvement?
The Edwardian pageant Roman scenes negotiate historical facts and a desired past, offering a fascinating insight into English national identity at the turn of the century.