Barbara Black’s new book, Hotel London: How Victorian Commercial Hospitality Shaped a Nation and Its Stories looks at Victorian London’s grand hotels as both an institution and a culture intimately connected to the urban landscape. London’s grand hotels provided an essential space for socializing, fashioned by concerns relating to class, gender, and nationality. Hotel London explores how the emergence of the grand hotel as a physical and metaphorical space helped to construct a consumer economy that underscored London’s internationalism and, by extension, England’s global status.
Researching the book led Barbara, a university professor in America, to look at the works of Oscar Wilde, Henry James, Wilkie Collins, Arnold Bennett, Florence Marryat, and Marie Belloc Lowndes, as well as contemporary depictions of the hotels in the media, such as Mad Men, American Horror Story, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Hotel London gives a unique perspective on Victorian London that could only come from the stories of a hotel. Barbara will be joining Lucinda Hawksley for the Inside Story on 5 May.