Propagating power: Gender, language, and empire in the Edwardian Baroque revival (1885-1920)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract / Description of output

This paper concerns the important if obscure phase in the history of British architecture known as the ‘Edwardian Baroque’ revival. This phase was part of the wider neo-classical resurgence in public architecture that occurred in Britain and its empire during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (c.1885-1920). It grew out of and thus came to symbolise Britain’s renewed engagement with empire following Benjamin Disraeli’s ‘new imperial’ politics of the 1870s, and can be understood as a prominent material culture expression of this particular episode in the political and cultural history of Britain.

Given its wider and explicit imperial connotations, the Edwardian Baroque revival was the closest that British architects came to inventing a coherent and meaningful imperial style. It was the type of architecture that adorned state and civic structures in Britain and across the British world, especially in the settler dominions of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa, with a more or less explicit aim of articulating British global power and prestige.

One of the key characteristics of the movement was its specific appeal to national exemplars in the classical tradition. In this respect the Edwardian Baroque revival was no generic species of classicism, but one that took direct inspiration from the ‘great English masters’ such as Inigo Jones, Christopher Wren, Nicholas Hawksmoor, John Vanbrugh, and James Gibbs. Importantly, this imbued the style with particular nationalist, even chauvinist, overtones. This paper will consider further these overtones, focusing on the discursive and rhetorical dimensions of the style in its appeals to gender, national identity, and empire.

Here language (its conception and use) will be seen as a key factor in how the style was promoted and gained legitimacy. In so much as the Edwardian Baroque revival was understood as having a certain linguistic dimension in its capacity to communicate ideas concerning identity and nationhood, it will be shown how it can only be properly appreciated within the wider cultural and political context of its age – an age that witnessed significant changes in conceptions of the historic value of English language, masculine purpose, and British imperial destiny, including the deep anxieties that arose simultaneously owing to the significant challenges Britain faced with regard to increased international competition and conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Motion: Transformation
Subtitle of host publication35th Congress of the International Committee of the History of Arts, Florence, 1-6 September 2019 - Congress Proceedings - Part 1
EditorsMarzia Faietti, Gerhard Wolf
Place of PublicationBologna
PublisherBononia University Press
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9788869237928
ISBN (Print)9788869236501
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • architecture
  • Edwardian Baroque
  • gender
  • masculine
  • British empire
  • imperialism
  • Victorian
  • English


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