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Storied Ground
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    Roddy, Gareth 2018. ‘Westward on the high-hilled plains’: the literature of Shropshire and the early twentieth century imagination, 1896–c.1939. Contemporary British History, p. 1.


Book description

People have always attached meaning to the landscape that surrounds them. In Storied Ground Paul Readman uncovers why landscape matters so much to the English people, exploring its particular importance in shaping English national identity amid the transformations of modernity. The book takes us from the fells of the Lake District to the uplands of Northumberland; from the streetscapes of industrial Manchester to the heart of London. This panoramic journey reveals the significance, not only of the physical characteristics of landscapes, but also of the sense of the past, collective memories and cultural traditions that give these places their meaning. Between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries, Englishness extended far beyond the pastoral idyll of chocolate-box thatched cottages, waving fields of corn and quaint country churches. It was found in diverse locations - urban as well as rural, north as well as south - and it took strikingly diverse forms.


'Paul Readman is one of the most original scholars working today on the history of modern Britain, and this important and timely book will further enhance his already formidable reputation. His concern is to explore the many and multifarious ways in which perceptions and constructions of the English landscape, and not only natural but also man made, contributed to the development and articulation of English national identity from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. He does this by looking at boundaries (the White Cliffs of Dover and Northumberland), at places deemed worthy of preservation (the Lake District and the New Forest), and at non-rural repositories of national identity (Manchester and the Thames Valley). Thus understood, English cultural nationalism was no mere pastoral retreat or escape into bucolic nostalgia, but was much more varied and vigorous, and as much engaged with the urban and industrial present as with the agricultural and rural past. This is a very important book, and it is beautifully written as well.'

Sir David Cannadine - author of Margaret Thatcher: A Life and Legacy

'From the White Cliffs of Dover to the Northumberland Borders, this sparklingly written and engagingly imagined book takes the reader on a delightful and absorbing tour of some of the most 'storied' landscapes of modern England. En route it demonstrates the real diversity and multiple meanings of landscape in the remaking of politics and identities across the nineteenth century. Consistently surprising and persuasive.'

Peter Mandler - author of The English National Character: The History of an Idea from Edmund Burke to Tony Blair

'Storied Ground considers six powerful landscapes of modern Englishness. Two are border countries. Two are places of outstanding national beauty. Two are towns, giving Readman the opportunity to think again about English ruralism. This is a compelling study of England profound, a vital subject in these Brexit times.'

Robert Colls - author of George Orwell: English Rebel

'Storied Ground offers a vital account of how shifting attitudes towards landscape helped develop English and British national identities and democratic culture in the long nineteenth century. Preservationism in all its variety emerges as a radical and democratic agenda predicated on the notion that landscape was a ‘national possession’. An important book, richly-documented and historiographically significant.'

Matthew Kelly - author of Quartz and Feldspar. Dartmoor: A British Landscape in Modern Times

'Following an introduction that explores the picturesque, symbolic, and heritage associations of’ ‘storied ground’ with place, the focus shifts to the theme of the shaping of English identity. Six regional studies are set in the long nineteenth century from the French Revolution (1789) to WWI (1914), when mythic rural homelands were important in an age of urbanization, industrialization, and modernity … A conclusion offers a rich reprise of the ‘multifarious ways’ landscape contributed to English national identity before 1914. Its forty figures, 200 references, and over 1,000 footnotes make Storied Ground a foundational source in landscape and identity studies. Highly recommended.'

B. Osborne Source: Choice

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Space does not permit the inclusion of a full bibliography of all the works cited in this book. The items detailed here include many that have proved especially useful as sources of information, insight and inspiration. But it is by no means an exhaustive list, and so far as secondary sources go, the inclusion (or exclusion) of any given work should not be taken as implying a particular value judgement on my part. In the main, my research has relied on published material, but I have also used some archival sources. For details of these, and of the other sources on which this book draws, please see the footnote references to each chapter.

  • British Parliamentary Papers

  • Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates

  • Periodicals

  • Art Journal

  • A Beautiful World

  • Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine

  • Bow Bells

  • Builder

  • Climbers’ Club Journal

  • Contemporary Review

  • Cornhill Magazine

  • Country Life

  • Dover Observer

  • Economist

  • Edinburgh Review

  • English Lakes Visitor and Keswick Guardian

  • Fortnightly Review

  • Gentleman’s Magazine

  • History of the Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club

  • Independent Review

  • Lock to Lock Times

  • London Society

  • Macmillan’s Magazine

  • Magazine of Art

  • Manchester Faces and Places

  • Manchester Guardian

  • Monthly Chronicle of North-Country Lore and Legend

  • National Review

  • Nature Notes

  • Nineteenth Century

  • North of England Magazine

  • Northern Counties Magazine

  • Pall Mall Gazette

  • Punch

  • Saga-Book of the Viking Club

  • Saturday Magazine

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  • Spectator

  • The Times

  • Westminster Review

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