Time Travel: Australian Tourists and Britain's Past

Richard White


Abstract

Across the twentieth century, Britain drew more Australian tourists for longer and more intense experiences than anywhere else, though as early as the 1970s Asia was attracting more Australians than Europe. They found much to admire and to deprecate in Britain but above all they were seduced by Britain’s past, or what they imagined it to be. This paper examines the Australian experience of history in Britain, their admiration for notions of tradition, for an unchanging village life, for fading imperial glory, for sheer antiquity. Some looked for their own ancestors and family but most were satisfied to have their school lessons and imaginative reading validated by being there. The response they had to British history was an intensely emotional one: this article argues that it was a result not of imperial sentiment but of a desire for a deep and meaningful past.

Keywords

Australians; Tourism; Britain; History; Past; Emotion

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