This project explores the uses of architecture, architectural imagery and symbolic space in the festive cultures of early modern Europe. Historians and social scientists have often connected changing notions of elite public and private spaces to discourses of centralisation and modernisation in differing European ancien regimes. Combining textual and historical evidence, visual sources, evidence from material culture, and sociological and critical theory, this study will explore the competing definitions of court spaces either as a fixed static entity or as a fluid and moveable space, and how these definitions are conceptualised, embodied, enacted, and represented in a range of festive cultural practices. The study contrasts representations of elite spaces and, in particular, architecture, architectural forms and discourses, in differing arenas such as court, the city, and the country, and in different regions and countries. Part of the evidence will be drawn from British examples, evaluating Jacobean and Caroline progresses alongside the more familiar court masques of the two reigns, and contrasting these with diasporic festive forms in Britain’s subaltern societies (Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland, Wales). British exemplars will be contrasted with European festive cultures, especially those from the Low Countries and the German states. The study aims to develop a comparative and pan-European approach to interpreting festive cultures. One key aspect will be to explore the differing European approaches to centralisation and nation-state formation as one of the defining markers of modernity, an issue that retains its political resonance in modern Europe.
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