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Editor's letter

The Victorians had definite ideas about the role of art in society, and when fire destroyed Parliament in 1834, a lofty vision of how the new building should be decorated rose from the ashes. It was believed that the country's social divisions would be healed by the "beneficial and elevating influence of the fine arts upon the masses" - in other words, people spending time looking at art would have less inclination to vandalise machinery. It was a bold idea but, as our Inside Story (page 8) reveals, one that was fatally flawed in its execution.

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