Pieter Francois, Associate Professor in Cultural Evolution, University of Oxford, has published extensively on nineteenth-century British travelers to the Continent. His main interest focuses on the relationship between genteel poverty and national identity. In 2010 he published his monograph “A Little Britain on the Continent”: British Perceptions of Belgium, 1830-1870 with Pisa University Press. In addition to his work on nineteenth-century history, he is also interested in longue durée history and the digital humanities.
This article analyzes how the British writers Frances Trollope (1779–1863) and William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863) described the Belgian coastal resort Ostend in the 1830s and 1840s. A special focus is placed on both the British travelers passing through Ostend and the British resident communities at Ostend. The article will highlight how the assessments of Frances Trollope and William Makepeace Thackeray of Ostend as a coastal resort frequented by the British can be unpacked fruitfully within two overarching themes: the theme of “genteel poverty” and “respectability” on the one hand, and the theme of “national identity” and “religious identity” on the other. These assessments by Frances Trollope and William Makepeace Thackeray are contextualized against the background of contemporary British guidebooks and travel accounts on Ostend, and against some statistics on the British traveller and resident communities in mid-nineteenth century Belgium. (PF)