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In nineteenth-century Britain, many journalists, biographers, historians and artists responded to information overload by trying to gain an overview of their contemporary history. This talk uses a series of historiographical case-studies to suggest that nineteenth-century practitioners drew on two competing and successive conceptual models of overview: the panorama and the compilation. The panorama originated in a 360° painting format, but was adopted by historians, fiction-writers and later photographers; the compilation model of the encyclopaedia was in turn adopted by proto-sociologists, journalists and collective biographers.

In Panoramas and Compilations in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Seeing the Big Picture, Helen argues for a new politics of historical distance: one that recognizes the value of immersing ourselves in a situation, event or phenomenon, but which also does not chastise us for trying to see the big picture. This talk reflects on the challenges of bringing together different interdisciplinary source materials, and invites further discussion.

All welcome- this seminar is free to attend, but booking is required.