Paul Pickering – The Rhythm of the Hustings: Music and Electoral Politics in Victoria’s Empire

Writing the Empire: Scribblings from Below

An international & interdisciplinary conference

Phillipe de Vigors, ‘Convicts letter writing at Cockatoo Island, New South Wales, 1849’
Reproduced by kind permission of the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney


Event Dates: June 24-­26th 2010
Bristol, UK

Paul Pickering (Australian National University)
The Rhythm of the Hustings: Music and Electoral Politics in Victoria’s Empire

This paper explores the integral part that music played in the rituals in nineteenth century elections. At a time when the vast majority of people stood outside the political nation and those who could vote did so under public scrutiny, musical performances helped to rally support for rival candidates, offered short-hand manifestoes to the undecided, steeled the courage of timid voters, heralded famous victories and provided a rich avenue for those who sought to protest against the inequities of the political system. In Britain these rituals were part of a long established tradition of public theatre and counter-theatre. In what ways were they replicated across the Empire, particularly in the colonies of settlement? What role did music play in facilitating continuity or change?

This paper is offered as part of a panel with Dr Kate Bowan. Both papers draw up on their joint research project which examines the place of music in politics in the nineteenth-century British world.

Paul Pickering, Australian National Universityemail
Professor Paul Pickering is Convener of Graduate Studies and Director of the National Europe Centre at the Research School of Humanities, The Australian National University. He has published extensively on Australian, British and Irish social, political and cultural history and public memory and commemoration. His current project is a study of music and politics in the nineteenth-century British world (with musicologist Kate Bowan). This will be published by Manchester University Press.





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