The Invention of Traditions in the United Kingdom and the British Empire, 1840-1940

deadline for submissions: 
May 1, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Centre de Recherches et d'Etudes en Civilisation Britannique (CRECIB) and Société Française d'Etudes Victoriennes et Edouardiennes (SFEVE)
contact email: 

The Invention of Traditions in the United Kingdom and the British Empire, 1840-1940


Conference organized jointly by the Centre de Recherches et d'Etudes en Civilisation Britannique (CRECIB) and the Société Française d'Etudes Victoriennes et Edouardiennes (SFEVE).


University of Haute-Alsace, France (Mulhouse campus), November 16-17, 2023.


The year 2023 will mark the fortieth anniversary of the publication of The Invention of Tradition, a collective work edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger. Since this publication, the invention of tradition has become a key concept in cultural studies. This book was not the first to raise the question of the invention of tradition. Before it, the question of the "authenticity" of the products of popular culture had already been addressed, for example in the music sector (Karpeles 1951) or in tourism (McCannell 1976). But the specificity of Hobsbawm and Ranger was to show that "invented traditions" are not at odds with the past, on which they are based and which gives them their legitimacy, and above all that they generally emerge at moments of crisis, when the state, the power or the local authority must face new situations. This book then influenced other researchers such as Benedict Anderson who created the concept of "imagined communities" (1983), that is to say, communities fabricated at critical moments by the collective imagination, a plastic notion that adapts to the analysis of political contexts as well as to products of popular culture.

Tradition, which is inscribed in the long term, differs from custom, which concerns behaviours and practices common to a social group at a given moment. For Hobsbawm, tradition, even if invented, includes and exceeds custom: “ ‘Invented tradition’ is taken to mean a set of practices, normally governed by overtly or tacitly accepted rules and of a ritual of symbolic nature, which seek to inculcate certain values and norms of behaviour by repetition, which automatically implies continuity of the past”.  Moreover, invented tradition differs from true tradition in that the continuity with the past is artificial. It is thus a question of creating a form of ritualization by imposing repetitive forms and practices, supposedly inherited from the past. But it is the symbolic dimension in particular of the tradition which makes it different to the custom. It is precisely this symbolic and ritualized construction, at the foundation of the invented tradition, that was to become an essential perspective in cultural studies when analyzing  certain critical historical moments.

While the book edited by Hobsbawm and Ranger brings together contributions on the invention of the Scottish kilt tradition, Welsh national culture, scouting, and British monarchical ceremonies, which cover the period from 1840 to 1914, this conference invites us to explore other invented traditions over a longer period, from the 1840s to the 1940s. It will also analyze the reactivation of certain traditions at key moments in history.

The proposed papers can be structured around the following three axes:

- Political and legal perceptions of tradition and custom (customary law, Bagehot and the constitution, and so on)

- Imperial issues and the construction of tradition in the colonies in relation to the United Kingdom

- Folk culture and tradition (including local and religious festivals, folk music and paganism, musical or poetic genres, religious or popular processions, artists' houses etc.)


Presentations will last 20 minutes and may be given in French or English. Please send your proposals (250 words) with a biographical note (150 words) before May 1, 2023 to Laurent Curelly and Maxime Leroy, local organizers of the conference:

A reply will be sent to the authors before June 20, 2023.



Anderson Benedict, Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism (London, Verso, 1983; second expanded edition 2006)

Hobsbawm Eric and Terence Ranger, eds The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1983)

Karpeles Maud, "Some Reflections on Authenticity in Folk Music," Journal of the International Folk Music Council, Vol. 3 (1951), pp. 10-16.

McCannell Dean, The Tourist. A New Theory of the Leisure Class (New York, Schocken, 1976)