Written in the skies : advertising, technology, and modernity in Britain since 1885

Taylor, James (2016) Written in the skies : advertising, technology, and modernity in Britain since 1885. Journal of British Studies, 55 (4). pp. 750-780. ISSN 0021-9371

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New technologies significantly increased the reach of advertising from the late nineteenth century. Some aspects of this phenomenon, such as advances in printing methods, are well-known; others, in particular its controversial leap into the sky, have received far less attention. Though no longer seen as the home of divine portents, the sky did not become “empty space” in the modern era: it was still freighted with significance. This meant that the various attempts made by entrepreneurs from the 1880s to bring advertising to the skies were often met with hostility, even panic. In exploring these responses, this article resists depicting opponents of aerial advertising as over-sensitive aesthetes or technophobes. Rather, it explores the ways in which urbanization and commercial development imbued the sky with new meanings. The sky was imagined as man’s most valuable connection to nature in an urban society, a precious but endangered part of the nation’s heritage, and an essential counterweight to consumer society. Aerial advertising therefore represented an unjustifiable commercialization of a priceless public space. The rejection of this form of advertising did not involve denying modernity, but achieving an accommodation with it.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of British Studies
Additional Information:
https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-british-studies/article/written-in-the-skies-advertising-technology-and-modernity-in-britain-since-1885/9CE543001D765F8A660F14D2F177B2C7 The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Journal of British Studies, 55 (4), pp 750-780 2016, © 2016 Cambridge University Press.
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Deposited On:
17 Jun 2016 13:28
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 10:08