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Storied Ground
Landscape and the Shaping of English National Identity


  • Date Published: February 2018
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108424738

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • Seeks to explain the roots of modern English national identity through a novel case study approach, using familiar and iconic landscapes such as the White Cliffs of Dover and the River Thames
    • The writing style is lively and accessible, so will appeal to a wide range of readers
    • The book has a broad chronological coverage and uses extensive illustrations to help readers visualise the places and cultural artefacts discussed in the text
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '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, Choice

    'Given the recent controversies surrounding immigration and Brexit, this timely enquiry into the shaping of English national identity is supremely relevant … stimulating and authoritative …' Paul Elliott, Environmental History

    'Wide-ranging and stimulating … well-written and strongly recommended …' John A. Hargreaves, The Historian

    'Pleasant to read, vivid and precisely argued … extremely worth reading.' Andreas Fahrmeir, Historische Zeitschrift

    'This impressively researched and finely written study … is a lively and stimulating book, bursting with fresh insights into the relationship between people and landscapes.' Angus Winchester, Reviews in History

    'This stimulating and rewarding book, by a scholar who has made the study of the relationship between landscape, history and English national identity his own … makes some important and [long-overdue] arguments … [and contains] many bold but courteously-expressed challenges to historiographical orthodoxy …' Jeremy Burchardt, Environment and History

    '… excellent … illuminating … The result is not an overburdened text suitable only for scholars, but a readable, persuasive reconstruction of projects of national identity formation … Scholars from a variety of disciplines will find interest and revelations in Storied Ground: history, literary studies, political science, rhetoric, art history, and environmental studies are just the most obvious fields where this fine study will produce new directions and further nuances in scholarship and teaching. But … the audience for Paul Readman's book extends well beyond the academy. General readers with interests in local histories, in English history writ large, in literature, in travel and tourism, will all find food for thought here - and the pleasures of shapely prose, occasionally touched with wry humour and suffused with learning.' Anne D. Wallace, Nineteenth-Century Contexts

    'Paul Readman's Storied Ground … will become the standard reference point for those concerned with English landscape and national identity in the long nineteenth century … each chapter provides rich, original and nuanced analysis.' David Matless, Agricultural History Review

    'Insightful, original, and gracefully written … This book should be of great interest to historians and art historians, as well as those interested in tourism, historical preservation, and the construction of national identities. It is both scholarly and accessible, a model of interdisciplinary scholarship.' Jeffrey Auerbach, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

    'Those familiar with Paul Readman's previous work on landscape and its significance will turn with enthusiasm to his latest volume, the fruit of research in the library and in the field … Readman is an engaging and convivial guide … Using a wide range of source material, from periodical articles to popular song … he gives new insights into areas that are staples of landscape and open space histories, the New Forest and Lake District for example, and opens up less familiar landscapes, notably Manchester … I warmly commend this book. It is attractively written and illustrated, reasonably priced, and light enough to be a good companion in the field as well as intellectually weighty enough to be compelling reading in the library.' Elizabeth Baigent, Rural History

    '… a pleasure to read … Given our post-Brexit national dissensus, Readman's study is timely in its insistence on a more nuanced view of English cultural nationalism.' Caroline Edwards, Times Higher Education

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108424738
    • length: 348 pages
    • dimensions: 236 x 157 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.71kg
    • contains: 40 b/w illus.
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Borders:
    1. The cliffs of Dover
    2. The Northumbrian borderland
    Part II. Preservation:
    3. The Lake District
    4. The New Forest
    Part III. Beyond the South Country:
    5. Manchester: shock landscape?
    6. The Thames

  • Author

    Paul Readman, King's College London
    Paul Readman is Professor of Modern British History at King's College London. He is author of Land and Nation: Patriotism, National Identity and the Politics of Land (2008). His other publications include, as co-editor, The Land Question in Britain (2010), Borderlands in World History, 1700–1914 (2014) and Walking Histories, 1800–1914 (2016), as well as many articles and essays. As a keen walker and perpetual tourist, he has a long-standing interest in the diverse ways that human experience shapes, and is shaped by, landscape and place.

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