cover of book

A Contemporary Archaeology of London's Mega Events: From the Great Exhibition to London 2012
by Jonathan Gardner
University College London, 2022
Cloth: 978-1-78735-846-1 | Paper: 978-1-78735-845-4

The contemporary archaeology of urban mega-events.

This book explores the traces of London’s most significant modern “mega events”: the Great Exhibition of 1851, the 1951 Festival of Britain’s South Bank Exhibition, and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Though only open for a few weeks or months, mega events permanently and disruptively reshape their host cities and societies: they demolish and rebuild whole districts, they draw in materials and participants from around the globe, and their organizers self-consciously seek to leave a “legacy” that will endure for decades or more. The book argues that these spectacles must thus be seen as long-lived and persistent, rather than simply transient or short-term phenomena. It explores the long-term history of each event through contemporary archaeology, examining the contents and building materials of the Great Exhibition’s Crystal Palace and their extraordinary afterlife at Sydenham, South London; how the Festival of Britain’s South Bank Exhibition employed displays of ancient history to construct a new postwar British identity; and how London 2012 dealt with competing visions of the past as archaeology, waste, and heritage in creating a vision of the future.

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