On close inspection, world’s fairs tell us much about the major events and changes that have shaped the world over the last 150 years or so. They stand as important markers of history, charting the rise and fall of empires and the ongoing shifts in the global ordering of power. As public events reaching huge audiences, they also reflect the aims and anxieties, the beliefs and values of their time. And yet, surprisingly, despite all the profound political, technological and social changes that have occurred since the first world’s fair was held in London in 1851, the formula and concept of these events have remained remarkably familiar. To trace the history of world’s fairs, then, is to trace a series of interweaving departures and continuities, as we shall see over the course of the following pages.