British Association for American Studies


Summer Scholars: Vaudeville Indians/Cliveden and WW1 (British Library)

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Summer Scholars: Vaudeville Indians/Cliveden and WW1 (British Library)

July 27, 2015 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

Summer Scholars Monday 27 July

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  • “Vaudeville Indians” on the British Stage

Christine Bold (Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow) uncovers some of the hidden history of Native and non-Native vaudevillians “playing Indian” on global circuits, starting in 1893 with Seneca performer Go-won-go Mohawk in Liverpool.

  • Cliveden, Canadians and the First World War

Martin Thornton (Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow) discusses the First World War hospital at Cliveden, the Astor estate at Taplow, Buckinghamshire and asks what it meant for Canadian political sovereignty, empire, the broader role of women and the question of sacrifice for Canadians.


‘“Vaudeville Indians” on the British Stage’

Christine Bold, University of Guelph (Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow)

In 1893, when Seneca actor Go-won-go Mohawk rode onto the stage of the Shakespeare Theatre, Liverpool, she introduced British audiences to a queer, modern, triumphant Indigeneity never before seen. She was the first of the “vaudeville Indians”: Native and non-Native entertainers “playing Indian” on global circuits from Manhattan to Moscow, Los Angeles to London. Popular well into the 1930s, they have largely gone under the scholarly radar. This talk uncovers some of their hidden history, with the help of British Library archives and of contemporary Indigenous artists in whose memories and performances this community lives still.

Christine Bold has authored and edited six books, most recently the award-winning The Frontier Club: Popular Westerns and Cultural Power, 1880-1924 (Oxford University Press, 2013). She is Professor in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph, Canada. In July 2015 she will be a Visiting Fellow in North American Studies at the Eccles Centre, the British Library.

‘Cliveden, Canadians and the First World War’

Martin Thornton, University of Leeds (Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow)

Cliveden is a famous, perhaps now considered infamous, English country house overlooking the River Thames near Taplow in Buckinghamshire. A small number of Canadians are buried in a “secret” garden cemetery at Cliveden. This Canadian cemetery abroad came about because in the First World War the Canadian Government set up a hospital on the Cliveden estate and this was repeated during the Second World War. This is not a straightforward story since the British Government rejected Waldorf Astor’s offer to set up a First World War hospital and convalescent centre for British military personnel on his estate. Cliveden was also the home of the indomitable Nancy Astor and her contradictory actions and beliefs contribute to an intriguing account of wartime social and military history. How the Canadian relationship originated and was sustained at the Duchess of Connaught Hospital by the Canadian Red Cross and what it ultimately meant for Canadian politicians, Canadian doctors and nurses and Canadian military personnel who found themselves abroad in England is worthy of reflection and analysis. The First World War hospital at Cliveden was identifiably Canadian: it was staffed by Canadians, the consultants, surgeons, doctors and nurses were Canadian; it had Canadian patients, but not exclusively Canadian patients;  the Canadian nurses wore identifiable in their “bluebird” uniforms. Canadian entertainments were controlled from Cliveden – baseball, ice hockey, roller hockey. A Maple Leaf Social Club and newsletter (‘Chronicles of Cliveden’) was organised at the hospital. In a broad context, Canadians at Cliveden during the First World War were caught up in a period of transition for their nation. Issues of political sovereignty, empire, suffrage, the broader role of women and the question of what sacrifice meant for Canadians are relevant within events of this study. Some patients at the Duchess of Connaught Hospital were there as the victims of the use of gas during battles in the First World War and became part of a major study of the effects of chlorine gas, adding to the poignant medical history of the period.

Dr Martin Thornton is a Senior Lecturer in International History and Politics and Director of the Centre for Canadian Studies at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. His research and teaching cover both Canadian and American foreign policy and his work includes:  Winston S. Churchill, Robert L. Borden and Anglo-Canadian Naval Relations, 1911-1914 (London: Palgrave, 2013); Sir Robert Borden: CanadaMakers of the Modern World. The Paris Peace Conference, 1919-23. Their Aftermath and Legacy (London: Haus, 2010) Edited book: Nancy Astor’s Canadian Correspondence 1912-1962 (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997).


July 27, 2015
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Event Category:


Eccles Centre for American Studies
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British Library Conference Centre
96 Euston Road
London, NW1 2DB United Kingdom
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0843 208 1144
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