The Great Exhibition of 1851 has become a touchstone for the 19th century. The Crystal Palace produced a commodity world, an imperial spectacle, a picture of capitalism, a liberal dream, a vision of modern life. Historians have saturated the Great Exhibition with meanings. This collection of essays exposes how meaning has been produced around the Great Exhibition. It contains a series of critical readings of the official and popular historical record of the exhibition. Critics and historians of art, culture, design and literature have been brought together to examine the objects, the images, the documents and the fictions of 1851. Their essays explore the determined use of industrial knowledge, the contested definitions of nation and colony, and the actual control of the space of the Crystal Palace after the Great Exhibition closed. This work presents interpretations of one of the most significant exhibitions in the 19th century and should be useful reading for anyone studying cultural history, design history, art history and literature.