No Mere Dream: Material Culture and Electrical Imagination in Late Victorian Britain

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-191
Number of pages19
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015
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In 1892 the English natural philosopher and chemist William Crookes speculated about ‘Some Possibilities of Electricity’ in the pages of the Fortnightly Review. Crookes discussed the nature of electricity and its relationship to the ether. He talked about the prospect of wireless communication, of electrical telepathy and controlling the weather. Crookes's article is only one instance of a trend towards constructing imagined electrical futures towards the end of the 19th century. These sorts of speculations played with the boundaries of the real but they were built around a solid material culture. In this paper I want to look at how these sorts of speculative accounts of electrical futures were put together. In particular, I want to look at the ways in which electrical speculation was grounded in material and practical experimental culture and how these sorts of speculations around the boundaries of the real played back into late Victorian electrical experimentation


  • Edwardian, electricity, futurism, Victorian