Colonial Transformations in Court and City Entertainments
In the early seventeenth century, London elected a new Lord Mayor annually from the exalted ranks of the twelve great livery companies, and that mayor’s reign began with a lavish spectacle that lauded his achievements and the city’s worth.1 Those companies and the merchants associated with them funded expansion into every corner of England’s emerging global market, and their yearly Lord Mayor’s pageants celebrated their heroes in the context of their colonial endeavors—endeavors that were becoming more and more central to the city’s economic success. Transformative spectacles in themselves, since they accomplished a transformation in status for the new mayor, Lord Mayors’ pageants both acknowledged the Company’s and London merchants’ roles in England’s colonial efforts in Ireland, Virginia, Bermuda, and the East Indies, and they were, I will argue, motors of those efforts. Actively mobilizing London’s mayors and prominent guild members as explorer-colonists, these annual public entertainments satisfied guild members’ visions of themselves as world-dominators, and they produced expectations of dominance that would fuel continuing mercantile expansion. In addition, these pageants represented the city as whitened space, able to bring its enlightenment to what they depicted as England’s dark colonial edges.
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