The Invention of the English Landscape

By Peter Borsay with Rosemary Sweet.

Since at least the Reformation, English men and women have been engaged in visiting, exploring and portraying, in words and images, the landscape of their nation. The Invention of the English Landscape examines these journeys and investigations to explore how the natural and historic English landscape was reconfigured to become a widely enjoyed cultural and leisure resource. Prof. Peter Borsay considers the manifold forces behind this transformation, such as the rise of consumer culture, the media, industrial and transport revolutions, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and the Gothic revival. In doing so, he reveals the development of a powerful bond between landscape and natural identity, against the backdrop of social and political change from the early modern period to the start of the Second World War.

Prof. Borsay’s interdisciplinary approach demonstrates how human understandings of the natural world shaped the geography of England, and uncovers a wealth of valuable material, from novels and poems to paintings, that expose historical understandings of the landscape. This innovative approach illuminates how the English countryside and historic buildings became cultural icons behind which the nation was rallied during war-time, and explores the emergence of a post-war heritage industry that is now a definitive part of British cultural life.

Published on 24th August 2023 by Bloomsbury Publishing.

Prof. Borsay was a historian whose main interests were the pre-modern town and the history of leisure, and whose publications included The Image of Georgian Bath, published in 2000. He also wrote The English Urban Renaissance: Culture and Society in the Provincial Town 1660-1770 (1989) and A History of Leisure: The British Experience Since 1500 (2006). He began his academic career at University of Wales, Lampeter (now University of Wales, Trinity Saint David) before moving, in 2007, to take up a professorship in history at Aberystwyth University, where he remained until his retirement in 2018.

Prof. Peter Borsay died in November 2020, before his final book, The Invention of the English Landscape, c. 1700-1939 was completed and published. The Centres for Urban History and Regional and Local History at the University of Leicester held a symposium on Friday 29 September 2023 to discuss and celebrate Peter’s final work and his broader contribution to urban history and the historical discipline more broadly. Speakers included Prof Penelope Corfield, Prof Keith Snell and Dr Katy Layton Jones.

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