First BSECS/GPP fellow announced


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The Georgian Papers Programme and the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies are delighted to announce the recipient of the first BSECS/GPP fellowship. We had a very strong field, making the decision a difficult one, but are delighted to announce that the fellowship has gone to Hillary Burlock, a first-year PhD student at Queen Mary University of London. Although she only completed her MA in 2017, Hillary has been researching and performing dances from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries for a decade or more.

Hillary’s thesis analyses the intersection of politics with social dance in late Georgian Britain. Dance historians often analyse forms, styles, and footwork, but relatively little has been written on dance as a political tool. Similarly, social and political history overlooks dance as an alternative lens for viewing culture.  Hillary’s work explores the workings of dance, through dancing masters and education, themes of feminine accomplishment and masculinity, the creation and enactment of social hierarchies within the ballroom, tensions between Whigs and Tories, and the complex rituals of dance that permeated Georgian society.  She argues that the ballroom was not a frivolous or solely feminine space but was intensely political, deliberately used by politicians and elite families to consolidate social and political credit.

Through her fellowship Hillary will research royal birthday balls, an instance where dance intersects with politics at the highest level, essential to evaluating the uses and efficacy of dance as a political tool across the spectrum of social and political interactions. Royal birthday balls commemorated the monarch’s official birthday. These balls were events where Britain’s elite, the Bon Ton, were expected to pay their respects through purchasing new garments, attending the drawing room, and either observing or dancing at the ball. Royal birthday balls were extremely political events, steeped in symbolism, ceremony, and ritual, and embroiled in familial and party politics. Numerous records of these events survive in images, newspaper reports, and correspondence and merit further examination, particularly regarding the rules surrounding attending and participating in these balls, dress, court etiquette, and dancing. I will examine the intricacies of performance through minuets and country dances at birthday balls, as a stage for demonstrating one’s social and political engagement with George III’s court. She will also consider the royal family’s wider interactions with the Bon Ton at balls, routs, and meetings particularly with political hostesses like Lady Grey, the Duchess of Gordon, Mrs. Crewe, Lady Melbourne, Lady Fox, Lady Chatham, Lady North, and the Duchess of Devonshire.

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