Ephemeral Vistas: The Expositions Universelles, Great Exhibitions and World's Fairs, 1851-1939 (Studies in Imperialism)
So these were like the Olympics, but even bigger, (several early Olympics were actually sideshows in World Fairs. So was the Second Internationale, at one point.) But instead of showing off just their athletes, countries would come on down and show ALL OF THEIR STUFF. ALL of it. Cheese, chairs, art, technology, 'whistles made out of pig's tails', New Zealand, New Zealanders...whatever. To me is sounds like a completely mad pileup of random stuff, like the garage sale of the universe, but evidently it kind of made sense to them? Not just made sense, but was a concerted effort to shape the image of the world (in their own imperialist image, naturally.) The most interesting bits are the way this image would get subverted, the street finding it's own uses for, er, streets - like the "Cairo Souk" bit, which should have been a model staffed by obesquieous natives, but took on an actual seedy, commercial life of it's own.