Peter Bailey-Roller Skates to Ragtime: Americans and Americanisation in Victorian Britain

West St. Pic

Well before the global invasion of Hollywood and the movies, American popular recreations and entertainments established a substantial beachhead in Victorian Britain, a lesser known but historically significant adjunct to the growth of American economic power. This illustrated presentation opens with a case study of the roller skating boom or ‘rinkomania’ in 1870s Britain, an American transplant of its distinctive technology, business practice and social manners. The study reanimates successive American showbiz genres, artists  and their influence on the British music halls and popular stage, from minstrelsy to the sensational song and dance of ragtime – –  ‘Everybody’s Doin’ It’ – – on the eve of the World War. The Americanisation of Victorian Britain, it is argued, was no one-way process but a complex interaction of modernising cultures, providing a revealing take on an emergent ‘special relationship’, its harmonies and discords. While it intensified the grip of American consumer capitalism, it generated greater expressive freedoms, aesthetically, socially and sexually, in the British host culture.

Peter Bailey is a historian, writer, and jazz musician.  An Emeritus Professor at the University of Manitoba, Bailey is currently based in Bloomington, Indiana.  His area of specialty is the social and cultural history of modern Britain, especially the history of the Victorian music hall, jazz, and stage.  He is the author of many articles and books including Leisure and Class in Victorian England, Popular Culture and Performance in the Victorian City, Music Hall: The Business of Pleasure.

April 11, 2013, 7-8 pm
IUPUI Campus Center, CE 405 (Yale Pratt Meeting Room)

Nearest Guest Parking Garage Vermont Street Garage (XB)

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