In the 19th century, the metropolis became the soothsayer of societies. Here, probabilities of progress could be perceived, felt and smelt; here was the showcase of each nation's prime productions and representations. Travellers took to the metropolis in order to unravel the foreign society, in order to understand and learn about social characteristics and future developments, about cultural distinctions and commonalities, about banalities and extraordinary events. Travel writers mapped the development of Europe's metropolises and wrote for a large market using the form of a highly popular and established genre. In travel writing, popular sentiments, market-driven imaginations of the audience's interests, and on-the-spot analysis of cultural and political conditions are bound together in one account.
This book surveys the history of cultural perception in Western Europe from the Great Exhibition of 1851 to the National Socialists' party rallies in the Berlin of the 1930s. Travel writings are used as source material to enter the intricate discourses on national stereotypes, the metropolis and on the usage as well as the perception of authenticity.