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American Travel and Empire$
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Susan Castillo and David Seed

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9781846311802

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846315084

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‘A Confusion of Unwashed and Shabbily Dressed People’: Nineteenth-Century Americans and Urban Britain1

‘A Confusion of Unwashed and Shabbily Dressed People’: Nineteenth-Century Americans and Urban Britain1

Chapter:
(p.129) ‘A Confusion of Unwashed and Shabbily Dressed People’: Nineteenth-Century Americans and Urban Britain1
Source:
American Travel and Empire
Author(s):

Shirley Foster

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781846311802.003.0007

Americans who travelled to Britain in the nineteenth century sought to explore and confirm a sense of national identity contingent upon a renewal and re-evaluation of Old World relations. America, no longer the colonized, could now engage with the former colonizer as a means of entry into history, a source of cultural enrichment and a link with a visible past that the new continent itself lacked. This chapter shows, however, that the motherland which most Americans came to see and claim was one based on preconception and aesthetic imagining. The American visitor encountered an England incompatible with the idealized homeland of reassuring familiarity – the England of urban slums, dark industrial development, and a debased populace, alien because they had no prototype in canonical art or literature.

Keywords:   England, travel, American travellers, Old World, Britain, colonizers, national identity

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