Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

What is England?

August 28, 2009 · 3 Comments

Within the past three days I have visited The Tower of London, Stonehenge, the Roman Baths, and the Globe. Visiting these tourist traps has made me realize that in one respect I actually agree with A. N. Wilson, the author of London: A History, I think that the Disney-fication of these places has drastically transformed and even destroyed their historical significance.

When visiting Bath in particular I had trouble grasping that I was actually looking at the real Roman Baths. Not only is this hard for me to fathom this because I have never laid my eyes on something so old, but I also felt that the way they were presented made the idea of their authenticity completely unimaginable. I fold that the amalgam of the old with the new, the numerous signs, and tourists confused me and made it difficult to decipher the authentic from the fake.

I enjoyed every place that I have visited but I feel that attaching a gift shop to a place like Bath and the Tower of London makes them lose all possible historical value, and makes the places feel like an amusement park. After Stonehenge and the Tower of London I was left feeling a sense of unfulfillable and wanting more, almost as though I had missed something.

In fact, I have had a hard time grasping the fact that I am in England at all. The only time that I really started to comprehend that I am actually in England was when we driving through the countryside on our way to Bath. Unlike Stonehenge, the Tower, and the Globe I found this strangely refreshing and honest. There were no tourists snapping a million pictures, fences, snobby people in suits, or signs telling you which buttons to press on your listening device. For me that was England, not the double decker buses nor the red telephone booths with porn pasted on the inside. I am loving London but am anxious to settle in at UEA.

The Jewel House at the Tower of London

The Jewel House at the Tower of London

Categories: Rebecca
Tagged: , , , , , ,

3 responses so far ↓

  •   Karl // Aug 29th 2009 at 09:06

    Just for consideration: would you rather pass by a gift shop or pay twice as much for an entry fee? The gift shops, and I hate them too, serve a vital function in preserving these extensive sites so that we can continue to enjoy them.

  •   becca136 // Aug 29th 2009 at 15:09

    For me gift shops are just a fraction of the problem, and to some extent I enjoy them. However the real problem for me is the artificial quality that assault pavements, gift shops, signs, fences, Plexiglas, and new walls give these historic sites. However, I realize that these things are 100% necessary in the preservation of the sites. I also recognize that these problems are not easily solved.

  •   anyasettle // Aug 30th 2009 at 18:02

    If the “Disney-fication” of historical sites is something that you are really interested in and concerned about, you might consider picking up The McDonaldization of Society by sociologist George Ritzer. It’s a fascinating read and discusses how society is moving towards a system of rationalization – meaning maximum efficiency and controlled interactions – using, namely, the model of McDonald’s restaurants. Consider how we go through museums… there are maps, ropes, arrows to direct our paths, there are personal audioguides that limit contact with fellow museum go-ers. Could museums be just another example of rationalization? Possible research topic…

You must log in to post a comment.