The Great Exhibition of 1851, held in London's spectacular Crystal Palace, was the first world fair and the first industrial exhibition. It was also much more: the Great Exhibition was the single defining event for nineteenth-century Britons between the Battle of Waterloo (1815) and the Diamond Jubilee (1897). Enhanced by dozens of illustrations, this wide-ranging account of the Great Exhibition uncovers for the first time how the extraordinary occasion was conceived and planned, why it was such an unexpected success, what it actually meant to the millions of Britons who visited it, and what it came to mean to later generations. The book challenges the common view that the exhibition symbolised peace, progress, prosperity, and the emergence of an industrial middle class. Auerbach suggests instead that the Great Exhibition became a cultural battlefield on which proponents of different visions of industrialisation, modernisation, and internationalism fought for ascendancy in the struggle for a new national identity. Drawing on extensive archival research in such diverse areas as politics, economics, social structure, and international relations, this book contributes not only to our understanding of British national identity in the Victorian era but also to our broader understanding of the formation of national identities in the modern era.

Selected Reviews:

'The book is an exemplary piece of cultural history.' - David Vincent, American Historical Review

'This is a remarkable work of scholarship, lavishly produced. It is richly illustrated, including unfamiliar material along with the familiar... a rich and stimulating analysis.' - Simon Dentith, Endeavour

'Compelling new study of the phenomenon of 1851.' - J.Mordaunt Crook, Times Literary Supplement

'The great strength of Auerbach's book lies in its archival research... Auerbach is particularly adept at detailing the ideological compromises and contradictions that went into the making of the Exhibition.' - Parama Roy, Social History

'Impressive study of this hugely successful mother of all exhibitions" - Peter Bailey, Journal of Modern History

'This book has great modern relevance.' - Richard Holder, Building Design

'Packed with good quotations and interesting statistical analysis.' - Charlotte Gere, Art Newspaper

'Well-written imaginative study.'- Crafts Magazine

'One of the most comprehensive accounts of the Great Exhibition ever published... vividly bring to life the Victorian Age before our eyes.' - Virginia Quarterly Review

'His research is broadly-based and astonishingly thorough... The writing is clear, concise, and engaging... As a study of mid-Victorian values, The Great Exhibition of 1851: A Nation on Display is quite brilliant. - P. C. Kidd, Amazon.com