Commemorating the Future

The Reign of George VI and an eighteenth-century twentieth century. – Winner of the Committee award for a particularly interdisciplinary paper / which pioneers a new area of study,
assigned by the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies at its annual conference, 2021.

2021 will mark the centennial of the establishment of the city of Stanley, in Rutland, as the new British cultural capital, thanks to George VI’s initiatives in 1921.

Stanley’s renaissance took place after the monarch’s heroic decision to oppose a Russian invasion force in 1900, which brought to England’s military successes over France, Russia, and Spain, and to the final coronation of George the VI as King of France at Rheims, in 1920. The rise of Russia, and the oppressive influence exerted by Charles X of France over the continent were ended by British power. After these crucial military achievements, during 1921 the Bolingbrokeian king devoted his energy to the building of what I. F. Clarke has defined a new “Hanoverian harmony”, with its cultural barycentre in the Midlands. Stanley became home to a new Chancery, a Cathedral of St. John the massive proportions of which overshadow St. Peter in Rome, and to the Academy of Polite Learning, at the forefront in “promoting literature in all its branches”.

Commemorating the Future, a slide on the history and geography of Stanley. Image: visualisation with Nodegoat, detail @ Giulia Iannuzzi personal research domain. Copyright Giulia Iannuzzi

If we lift our eyes from the pages of The Reign of George VI. 1900-1925: A Forecast Written in the Year 1763, published in London in 1763, we may reason on the future depicted – and celebrated ex ante – in this anonymous novel, through an extrapolation which exploits both prescriptive-utopian and prophetic imaginative strands.

This paper aims at fostering a better understanding of a future conceived as a dimension pliable by human action, against the backdrop of the crisis of the European temporal mind that took place during the late-modern era. The case study of The Reign of George VI – a fascinating early futuristic fiction with a very specific interest in (future) history – is placed within the cultural history of time, tracing back the conceptualization of a secularized future to the emergence of new ideas and sensibilities towards historical time, which matured gradually during the eighteenth century.

The Reign proposes a historical chronicle of the future starting in 1900, mimicking the structure and tone of a short treaty, with an introduction devoted to a didactic summary of British history from 1660 to the end of the nineteenth century. A roman-à-thèse-reading with clear reference to British current affairs is suggested transparently, while the projection of causal mechanisms into the future offers an imaginary laboratory to demonstrate and celebrate the successes of an ideal Bolingbrokeian monarch, and portray a European and global future seen from British eyes.

The Reign of George VI, 1763 edition.
Copy at John Carter Brown library via Internet Archive.
No known restriction for scholarly use.

To explore the novel’s chronotope and its depiction of a global space-time of the future I developed a Nodegoat project on my personal research domain. I presented some visualisations while giving my paper at:

Anniversaries, Jubilees, Commemorations, 50th Annual Conference British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 6-8 January 2021.

At this link the conference website

At this link the conference programme

Commemorating the Future is part of session 1, panel 2: Military commemoration
Host: Phil Connell
Chair: Matthew McCormack
Speakers: Conrad Brunstrom “Bravely suspending War, and daring not to Fight”: 1713, and the Poetic Imagining of World Peace.
Samuel Dodson Courage, Honour and Phlegm: An investigation into military intellectual’s opinions on the psychology of combat in the eighteenth century.
Giulia Iannuzzi Commemorating the Future: The Reign of George VI and an eighteenth-century twentieth century

Commemorating the Future, presentation title slide. Copyright Giulia Iannuzzi

Cite this article as: Giulia Iannuzzi, "Commemorating the Future," in Geographies of Time, 06/01/2021, https://ian.hypotheses.org/1553.

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