The surge of interest in popular representations of the British past has been in the vanguard of studies of popular historical cultures. However, historians have largely ignored the emotions which such representations have aroused in audiences and users. This article brings together the separate historiographies of popular visual culture and of emotions, and relates the British culture of history which emerged around 1800 to new vocabularies, lexica and repertoires of feelings. The historical culture of sensation followed a revolution in visual culture and spectatorship. The author therefore historicizes 'horror/s', a composite term covering conflicting feelings connected to urban forms of vision. The history of sensations competed with, rather than replaced, the Whig interpretation, such that horror percolated into the apparently dominant language of improvement, progress and rational recreation. Repertoires of sensation circulated across boundaries between class and gender within and beyond Europe, giving rise to cross-cultural interpretations.