In the 19th century, only industrial exhibitions had their place. These exhibitions were born during the industrial revolution and aimed to show know-how and develop imagination and innovation.
It is during these "giant parties" that the builders, manufacturers and researchers showed the public their latest invention, always trying to go further. In addition, in order to motivate the participants, prizes were awarded for each type of product rewarding the best in each category.
The first universal exhibition made its appearance in 1851 in London. An exhibition is said to be universal if it touches all branches of human activity, moreover if all nations can participate in it, this exhibition becomes international. Despite their universality, the exhibitions have continued their momentum of technological progress and each time bring many new features (telephone, television, conveyor belt .....).
Despite these appearances of popular festivals, the exhibitions have 3 issues: Cultural, political and commercial.
Cultural in the educational sense because the people visiting the exhibitions could discover new technologies and be interested in art, and given the universality of the exhibitions, quite simply discover other cultures and other techniques by visiting the stands or flags of foreign nations.
The economic stakes were not negligible, despite the non-commercial aspect of the exhibitions. Indeed, the presentations of industrialists and scientists could lead to trade agreements.
And to finish the policy, the organizing nation thus becomes the center of the nations and at the same time transmits ideas and messages which will be "heard" by millions of individuals. Thus the exhibitions convey a message of peace.
In 1900, the exhibitions took a different turn. The confidence that everyone had in the industry and the progress is starting to run out. And as a result, public opinion is questioning the usefulness of such exhibitions. So future exhibitions will abandon progress and technique for more superlatives: bigger, more expensive, more commercial ....
There was no law governing exhibitions, only the organizing country established its own regulations. Thus on October 26, 1912 in Berlin was signed a regulation on international exhibitions, but the First World War interrupts the ratification.
So it was not really until November 22, 1928 in Paris, that the final convention was drawn up and signed by 39 countries and it was also at this time that the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) was truly created.
But the two wars have altered somewhat the optimism which prevailed until now in favor of humanism. Subsequently, exhibitions previously dedicated to industry and new technologies will turn to humanitarian themes.