New Local History Resource

The Redress of the Past: Historical Pageants in Britain 1905-2016 is a new free-to-use resource for local history: http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/

Dressing up and re-enacting the past through dramatic performance was a popular activity across much of twentieth-century Britain. Historical pageants were put on in villages, towns and cities up and down the country; hundreds of thousands of people were involved as volunteer actors, organizers, dressmakers, fund-raisers, and much else besides; millions more enjoyed these often large-scale events as spectators. Pageants told the stories of local communities through chronologically-ordered scenes or episodes featuring notable events from local history. Sometimes captured on film, these pageants are vivid, fascinating, and extraordinarily rich sources for local historical research.

 

Until recently, relatively little was known about the spread and extent of this ‘pageant fever’. But now a team of researchers have created a free, publicly-accessible database of historical pageants, available here. This database, which is fully searchable, contains detailed information about hundreds of historical pageants. Each pageant has its own entry, which includes factual material (e.g. names of organizers, dates and times of performances, financial profit/loss, content of episodes), but also a readable essay setting the event in its local and national context.

Few places in Britain were untouched by the pageant movement. Historical pageants were very popular in the south west, and you can find out about the events held in Wiltshire – and indeed elsewhere – by visiting our database. The Redress of the Past project website also contains a range of additional material and information, including images, details of some pageant films, and illustrated essays on particularly notable pageants.

A number of groups have found that pageants provide good subjects for talks, exhibitions, and projects of various kinds. In the last few years, for example, there have been exhibitions at Carlisle, Bury St Edmunds and Scarborough. You can read more about these exhibitions here. The Somerset & Dorset Family History Society has also started running a really interesting genealogical project on the performers who took part in the 1905 Sherborne pageant.

Please do spread the word about this project: we’d be delighted to hear what you think of it. Contact paul.readman@kcl.ac.uk or by phone on 0207 8481573.

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