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250 × 190 × 25 mm
352 pages
125 illustrations, 60 in colour
01 Jul 2016

Lancelot Brown and the Capability Men Landscape Revolution in Eighteenth-century England David Brown, Tom Williamson

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown is often thought of as an innovative genius who single-handedly pioneered a new, ‘naturalistic’ style of landscape design. But he was only one of many landscape designers in Georgian England, albeit the most commercially successful. Published to tie in with the tercentenary of Brown’s birth, Lancelot Brown and the Capability Men casts important new light on his world-renowned work, his eventful life and the business of landscape design in Georgian England.

There is no evidence that Brown actually invented the style with which his name is now so closely associated – it was simply the style of the times. He was the head of a complex business that could supply clients with a whole design ‘package’, which included new greenhouses, kitchen gardens and land drainage schemes. This innovative book investigates the nature and organization of Brown’s business, and draws insightful comparisons with similar providers of ‘taste’ such as the Adam brothers, Thomas Chippendale and Josiah Wedgwood. Illustrated with over 120 images, this beautiful book shows that Brown’s style, like the organization of his business, was the product of a distinctly modern world.

‘this book sheds important new light on [Browns] world-renowned work, eventful life, and the new naturalistic style of landscape design that became popular in Georgian England . . . This beautiful, innovative book, illustrated with more than 120 images, shows that Browns style, like the organisation of his business, was the product of a distinctly modern world.’ — Welsh Border Life

‘The authors primary goal is to allow students and scholars to distinguish the work of Brown from that of his rivals and followers . . . There are many plans by other designers reproduced here, a contribution that on its own establishes the permanent usefulness of this book.’ — The Garden

‘This is an utterly fresh and yet very disciplined account of Brown and his men. It will be an invaluable guide for readers who want to see a famous figure in contexts that extend their understanding of him. This is a book to re-read, and a reference book that not just garden historians will want on their shelves, but historians of the 18th-century culture of England and its landscapes.’ — John Dixon Hunt, Emeritus Professor of the History and Theory of Landscape, University of Pennsylvania, and author of The Making of Place (Reaktion, 2015)

‘This is a most enjoyable and important book. It is the first to assess Browns landscape revolution within the context of its time and to analyse the contribution to the eighteenth-century landscape style of his protégés and rivals. It presents a rounded picture of the way these practitioners responded to the directions of patrons to create a new template for the landscaped park. It also acknowledges that this move towards a more open, minimalist style began with the work of Bridgeman and Kent, and argues convincingly that many other landscape styles, especially the geometric and the Rococo, hung on well into Browns career and, indeed, were still being promoted after his death. All this analysis is set intelligently against the social, cultural, political, agrarian and architectural developments in the period. I have no doubt that it will prove to be the most important book to come out on Brown during the tercentenary.’ — Professor Timothy Mowl

‘In this beautifully illustrated, thoroughly researched volume, the authors elucidate the social, cultural, political, and economic context within which Brown operated . . . This book is an important contribution to the history of landscape design’ — Choice

‘In the cluster of publications on Lancelot “Capability” Brown coinciding with the tercentenary of his birth in 2016, David Brown and Tom Williamson’s contribution stands out in its attempt to place the man and his oeuvre firmly into context. This should be essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the Brownian style of landscapes. For, as the authors capably illustrate, Brown was only one of many practitioners “contriving improvements” in that manner in the second half of the eighteenth century. This book takes in a wide arc to explain the designs of Brown and his contemporaries – the aptly named “Capability Men” of the title . . . an enjoyable and highly informative read’ — Landscape History

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David Brown is Tutor of Landscape History at the University of Cambridge. Tom Williamson is Professor of Landscape History at the University of East Anglia. His books include Polite Landscapes: Gardens and Society in Eighteenth-century England (1998).

Tom Williamson is Professor of Landscape History at the University of East Anglia, and, with David Brown, author of Lancelot Brown and the Capability Men: Landscape Revolution in Eighteenth-century England (Reaktion, 2016).

The World of Mr BrownGardens and Society, 1700-1750The ‘Brownian’ LandscapeThe Brown ConnectionLandscape and ModernityAlternatives and Oppositions

Conclusion: Afterlife and Legacy




Photo Acknowledgements