In 1851 Great Britain was arguably the leader of the  industrial revolution and feeling very secure in that ideal. The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London was conceived to symbolize this industrial,military and economic superiority of Great Britain. Just representing the feats of Britain itself would have excluded many of the technological achievements pioneered by the British in its many colonies and protectorates, so it was decided to make the exhibit truly international with invitations being extended to almost all of the colonized world.[1]

The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London at the Crystal Palace, an architectural and technological marvel designed by Joseph Paxton. Symbolizing the superior economic and technological strength of Great Britain, the displays intended to demonstrate to a rapidlygrowing urban middle class that mechanically manufactured goods met or exceeded the quality of handmade products, at a fraction of the price. For many visitors, these mass-produced items were satisfactory and affordable; indeed, the exhibition
was a great financial success. book, page.22

[1]: http://www.victorianstation.com/palace.html