Taking Liberties

November 11, 2008

I went to the British Library’s Taking Liberties exhibition on Saturday. it was incredible to see all those hugely important documents in one room. And so many of them were huge physically as well as politically/symbolically. These massive scrolls and sheets of vellum really show how our relationship with the written word has changed. They are imposing objects, not just working documents. My personal favourites were The Agreement of the People and Charles I’s death warrant. Also some of the suffragette material was amazing to see – particularly Emily Davison’s purse and return train ticket to London. 

All in all though (and bearing in mind the theme of this blog) I was surprised that I didn’t feel The Shiver. I stared and stared at them, trying to imagine the documents being touched, signed and sealed or the purse being dropped, but somehow it didn’t happen. Perhaps I tried too hard. They are all So Significant and presented in such numbers that in a way it’s hard to feel a connection in the way that you might seeing each individually.


Certainly deserving a second (and third) view though! 

2 Responses to “Taking Liberties”

  1. Warren Says:

    I thought it was good, too. And ditto about all those documents. In practice, it was more about the constitution (such as it is) than about liberties. Maybe that goes with the territory.

    And what struck me most (localist in tooth and claw as I am) was how centralist/national the whole thing was. I didn’t see any expression of regional or local identity/liberties/expression in the whole exhibition (though I did skip a few bits as I had a meeting). As a non-historian, the exhibition helped me understand, I think, how power got to be so centralised.

    • thehistoricalshiver Says:

      Hi Warren, interesting point! I’m trying to remember whether there were any sections on local/regional identities or not. There was a whole section on the ‘4 nations’ but I’m not sure whether there were any regional documents within that… I’m taking my class on a trip next Wednesday though, so I’ll keep an eye out.

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