Expo History

The first historical World Expo dates back to 1851 in London, capital of England and worldwide industrial centre. London Universal Exposition in 1851 – “the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations” – with its 25 guest countries and a 6 million visitors, represented a unique event of such kind and it deeply influenced the history of such exhibitions while guaranteeing its success and that of the future Word Expo.

After that of London in fact, during the years lots of Universal Expositions were organized that touched the most famous capitals of the world: Paris, Vienna, Melbourne and Paris again with the extraordinary Expo in 1889 – from May 5th to October 31st 1889 – entitled “Celebration of the Centennial of the French Revolution”, that had the theme of French Revolution’s 100th anniversary as a protagonist and left us the Tour Eiffel, the steel tower 300 mt high, especially built on this occasion.

The great phenomenon of expositions affected also the city of Milan, that entered the global economic scenery thanks to the Sempione International Exposition in 1906, seeing the extraordinary participation of 25 countries and 10 million visitors from all over the world.

After Milan, more Universal Expositions were worldwide organized. Exhibitions were just turning into essential tools for a country to bring out its economy and its image of political and social power. But, too many affairs were at stake by now and the importance of the phenomenon originated the need of having rules to follow. It was for these reasons that the Paris Convention was stipulated, to certify the B.I.E.’s – Bureau International des Expositions – birth. It was 1928, and 31 countries in the world signed a convention that regulated the organization of all such events’ aspects. With the new century and the great Expo in New York in 1939, the new Age of Universal Expositions started. The war, however, interrupted also such exhibitions, restarted only in 1947, and it was from 1958 on – with the Exposition in Bruxelles “Balance of a world, for a more human world” – that the real Universal Expositions’ borders opened.

From that moment on, the Expo became a tool for political, economic and social propaganda, counting the collaboration of the most powerful countries in the world that worked together for a global growth, growth that will be definitely confirmed thanks to the entry in the convention of some Asian realities, from Expo 1970 in Osaka to next Expo 2010 in Shangai. Today the B.I.E. convention counts 154 members–states well–aware of the political and communicative power of these exhibitions, that represent a worldwide showcase of a nation’s scientific and technological development. After Shanghai, in 2015 also the city of Milan had its chance for stand out in this special panorama.


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