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Level 5

5AAH1049 The English and the English Landscape, c.1780-1914

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor (2019/20): Professor Paul Readman
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2 hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment (2019/20): 1 x 1,500 word formative essay, 1 x 3,000 word essay (100%)

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years

This module examines English engagement with the English natural and built environment between the late eighteenth century and the outbreak of the First World War. What roles did particular landscapes play in the English cultural imagination? Which were more or less valued, and why? What sorts of people valued which sorts of landscapes, and why? The module considers the place of the English landscape in art and literature. It also explores popular engagement with landscape, through activities such as tourism, photography and rambling, as well as elite and official attempts to ‘improve’ places and spaces in town and country. It traces the origins and early development of the modern-day preservation and conservation movements, and examines the role of landscape in construction of national and personal identities. The module is aimed at second and final-year undergraduates interested in the history of human interactions with the built and natural environment. It is assessed by means of two essays. Please note that no prior knowledge of modern British history is required.

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

  • Briggs, Victorian Cities (1963) [A classic of urban history; highly readable and stimulating.]
  • Burchardt, J., Paradise Lost: Rural Idyll and Social Change since 1800 (2002) [an excellent survey of British attitudes to the countryside over the last two centuries.]
  • Cosgrove D., and Daniels, S., eds, The iconography of landscape: essays on the symbolic representation, design and use of past environments (1988) [An influential collection of essays, mainly from the perspective of historical geography]
  • H. Taylor, A claim on the countryside: a history of the British outdoor movement (1997) [The standard history of the movement]
  • Marsh, J., Back to the land: the pastoral impulse in England, 1880 to 1914 (1982) [A readable account of the late nineteenth-century zenith of interest in things rural]
  • Wiener, M.J., English culture and the decline of the industrial spirit, 1850-1980 (1981) [Hugely important work arguing for the regressive impact of cultural ruralism – among other things – on British economic performance]
  • Wood, C., Paradise lost: paintings of English country life and landscape (1988) [A good overview of depictions of the rural landscape in pictorial art]
  • Mandler, P., ‘Against Englishness: English culture and the limits to rural nostalgia, 1850-1940’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (1997) [an influential essay, sceptical of the cultural purchase of ‘ruralism’ in Britain]
  • Andrews, M., The search for the picturesque: landscape aesthetics and tourism in Britain, 1760-1800 (1989) [Magisterial account of the picturesque dispensation]
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