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Heritage, Politics and Identity in East London, 1973-2008: A New History of Imperial Memory

Gleeson, Finn; (2023) Heritage, Politics and Identity in East London, 1973-2008: A New History of Imperial Memory. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This dissertation is a history of imperial memory in East London’s heritage industry, 1973-2008. It develops a new approach to the history of the heritage industry in contemporary Britain and intervenes in debates about imperial memory and its political significance. It consists of six chapters, with two each in three chronological parts. Each part includes one chapter on museums, specifically the Museum of London, and one on a community heritage group. Part one concerns heritage organisations funded by the New Urban Left, part two those responding to changes wrought by Thatcherism, and part three those operating under the ‘Third Way’ politics of the late 1990s and early 2000s. This structure facilitates a closer examination of the way diverse heritage organisations interacted with one another, their economic and cultural policy context, and specifically their funders. Through this, it corrects existing methodological assumptions and oversights among historians of heritage in modern Britain. Previous studies have grouped heritage organisations into museums, characterised by secure funding, professionalism and conservative or nationalist narratives, and radical ‘community’ heritage groups, who are museums’ organisational and political opposite. This produces a neglect of the history of collaboration between museums and community heritage, and of the shifting, material relationships between funders and practitioners which shape and reshape discourses. My methodology also facilitates a more complex and sophisticated account of imperial memory in contemporary Britain. Recent scholarship debates whether imperial memory in Britain is best characterised as a form of imperial ‘nostalgia’ or ‘amnesia’. Instead, I argue that it was shaped by producers’ changing relationship to their political context, their funders, and wider changes in professional practice. This made its character fluid, messy and contradictory. Finally, I argue that this analysis of imperial memory is necessary to grasp the uneven and inconsistent place Empire still plays in British politics today.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Heritage, Politics and Identity in East London, 1973-2008: A New History of Imperial Memory
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2022. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request. - Some third party copyright material has been removed from this e-thesis.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10171243
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