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234 × 156 × 23 mm
368 pages
81 illustrations
01 Mar 2001
Picturing History
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Landscape and Englishness David Matless

Landscape has been central to definitions of Englishness for centuries. David Matless argues that landscape has been the site where English visions of the past, present and future have met in debates over questions of national identity, disputes over history and modernity, and ideals of citizenship and the body.

Landscape and Englishness is extensively illustrated and draws on a wide range of material - topographical guides, health manuals, paintings, poetry, architectural polemic, photography, nature guides and novels.

The author first examines the inter-war period, showing how a vision of Englishness and landscape as both modern and traditional, urban and rural, progressive and preservationist, took shape around debates over building in the countryside, the replanning of cities, and the cultures of leisure and citizenship. He concludes by tracing out the story of landscape and Englishness down to the present day, showing how the familiar terms of debate regarding landscape and heritage are a product of the immediate post-war era, and asking how current arguments over care for the environment or expressions of the nation resonate with earlier histories and geographies.

Landscape and Englishness is an essential read for anyone interested in why some kinds of interaction with nature are celebrated and others are frowned on. Drawing on a huge diversity of sources books, films, preservationist tracts, walking guides, novels, music-hall songs, Ministry of Information pamphlets, maps and festival guides Matless reveals how our assumptions about landscape and national identity were forged in the decades between the Great War and the 1950s, and how deeply theyve been shaped by history, class and politics . . . a revelation’ — Helen Macdonald, The Guardian

‘creates a convincing portrait of the changing meanings of the English landscape in the twentieth century . . . This book is filled with enjoyable cameos of writers, painters, poets and naturalists, but it is also a thoughful portrayal of the city and the shifting ideology of modernity.’ — TLS

‘Already after the first world war the spread of what the countryside alliance of those days saw as the blight of suburbia evoked a cacophony of resentment. David Matless, a geographer, has rummaged purposefully among the gargoyles.’ — The Economist

‘The best book so far on the interpretation of landscape in the middle years of the twentieth century.’ — The Architects Journal, Books of the Year

‘This richly suggestive book draws on the kind of discarded material you might find gathering dust and fungus in a remote second-hand bookshop somewhere in middle-England . . . this book offer rich pickings for art historians who will look at Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland and even Richard Long and Hamish Fulton afresh.’ — The Art Newspaper

‘cultural history at its best, subtle, multi-layered and full of new ideas and insights . . . this book is a must.’ — Contemporary British History

‘David Matless engrossing and important book . . . Beneath the agitated and often opposing arguments about the proper treatment and use of the rural landscape are many and deep reverberations, touching issues of social, economic, aesthetic and political sensitivity.’ — Architectural Review

‘an interesting book, full of intriguing material, subtle arguments, illuminating insights. There is a wealth of illustrations and the book is very well produced . . . it is a work of real importance . . . it reads as much a work of the heart as well as the mind.’ — Geographical Journal

‘a richly informative text’ — Twentieth Century British History

‘As a wide-ranging and perceptive account of competing visions of England during a period of tremendous social change, out of which a distinctly new yet supposedly familiar landscape emerged, this book reminds us that landscape in itself and through its representations is a manifestation of culture and that by studing it we are participants in its continuous and often contentious re-evalutation. Landscape and Englishness deserves attention from anyone engaging with this issue.’ — Agricultural History Review

‘The easy, loosely chronological narrative and the generous number of illustrations make the book an engaging read, challenging at whatever level of analysis the reader chooses. What stays with me after reading it is the eagerness of the mid-20th century decision makers to think differently about landscape, and to embrace change.’ — Landscape Design

‘Matless approach gives free rein to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, his characteristic ability to make all kinds of connections, to tell a convincing tale almost a yarn about England, with a smattering of the quirky and eccentric . . . This scrupulously researched book will be of interest to geographers and others interested in the power of landscape to inform English national identity.’ — Geographical Journal

‘This is a beautifully produced book, lavishingly illustrated and meticulously footnoted . . . The themes are provocative and give this book its relevance to those involved in the visual arts.’ — Heritage Development

‘A beautifully accessible piece of old technology in the form of a book which could also be described as a study of images of England . . . the book applies a penetrating searchlight to the assumptions about the rural environment promoted by propagandists and interest groups in the pre-war and war-time years, and their relationship to national consciousness and popular sentiment . . . we should be grateful for this evocation of all our yesterdays.’ — Town and Country Planning

‘A wonderful read, cautious yet informed in its use of theory, sensitive to local and wider contexts, unafraid of detail without being swamped by it, often very funny and beautifully produced and illustrated . . . likely to be one of the lasting achievements of the new cultural geography’ — European Journal of English Studies

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David Matless is Professor of Cultural Geography at the University of Nottingham. He is the author of In the Nature of Landscape: Cultural Geography on the Norfolk Broads (2014) and The Regional Book (2015), and co-editor of Geographies of British Modernity (2003) and The Place of Music (1998).