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The University of Southampton

Landscape, the Medieval Past and English National Identity, 1800-1914 Seminar

Southampton Centre for Nineteenth-Century Research
16:00 - 18:00
27 March 2019
Building 65 Room 1173 Avenue Campus University of Southampton SO171BF

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Dr Aude Campmas at .

Event details

Part of the Southampton Centre for Ninteenth Century Research 2018/19. All welcome.


As is well known, the medieval past loomed large in nineteenth-century British culture. Engagement with the Middle Ages—imagined in various ways—had a profound impact on literature, art, architecture and much else besides. The extent and nature of this impact has attracted considerable scholarly attention. Strikingly, however, this work has taken little cognisance of the relationship between these medieval(ist) preoccupations and the English landscape, this being true even of many studies concerned with nineteenth-century architecture. This neglect is problematic in itself, but is doubly problematic given the importance of both medievalism and landscape to English national identity. Building on my recent book-length study on the ‘storied ground’ of Englishness, this paper argues that our appreciation of the cultural significance of engagement with the medieval past—particularly its role in the construction of nationhood—is therefore to a significant degree incomplete. The English landscape provided Victorians with perhaps the most compelling evidence of what they saw as the long continuities of English national history, back to Anglo-Saxon times. Thus the presence of the medieval past in the landscape of contemporary England served a vital nationalistic purpose, providing reassurance of the nation’s endurance, and progress, amidst the transformations of modernity.

Speaker information

Paul Readman, King’s College London . Paul Readman is professor of Modern British History at King’s College London. He has a longstanding interest in the place of the past in British culture, English national identity, and the cultural history of the English landscape. His publications include Storied Ground: Landscape and the Shaping of English National Identity (2018) and, as co-editor, Walking Histories, 1800-1914 (2016), a collection of essays on nineteenth-century practices of walking.

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