Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Timothy Alborn

Committee Members

Talia Schaffer

Randolph Trumbach

Mary Gibson

George Robb

Subject Categories

Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture | Architectural History and Criticism | Classical Archaeology and Art History | Cultural History | European History | Historic Preservation and Conservation | Intellectual History | Literature in English, British Isles | Museum Studies | Other History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Tourism and Travel | Urban Studies and Planning


London, Rome, Tourism, Historiography, Americans, Exhibitions


This dissertation is about how historical narratives developed in the context of a modern marketplace in nineteenth-century Britain. In particular, it explores British historicism through urban space with a focus on Rome and London. Both cities were invested with complex political, religious and cultural meanings central to the British imagination. These were favorite tourist destinations and the subjects of popular and professional history writing. Both cities operated as palimpsests, offering a variety of histories to be “tried on” across the span of time. In Rome, British consumers struggled when traditional histories were problematized by emerging scholarship and archaeology. In London, as the city modernized, efforts to preserve the past were caught between a desire for historical accuracy and the priorities of pleasure in the popular marketplace. As consumerism advanced, by the late nineteenth century, neither Rome nor London signaled a particular privileged moment in time (i.e. Roman antiquity). Instead, Britain’s historical consumers began to engage historical moments like goods available for picking and choosing. This study demonstrates a transition to subjectivity in historical tourism as a creative coping response to the professionalization of Victorian history writing. As they accessed history in an increasingly personal way, British consumers altered their relation to historical time.

This project bridges cultural and intellectual histories, drawing attention to the intersections between academic and consumer practices and an increasingly fraught balance between pleasure and instruction. When Britain’s historical consumers grappled with shifts in historiography, they faced an epistemological crisis. Ultimately, they turned to personally gratifying, idiosyncratic visions of the past. By bringing scholarly history writing, historical tourism, and the wider literary market into a common analytical frame, this dissertation demonstrates that Victorian historical thought did not march, unimpeded, towards objectivity and professionalization. Instead, there was an interdependence between professional historical scholarship and consumer culture.