Land and Nation in England

Land and Nation in England

Patriotism, National Identity, and the Politics of Land, 1880-1914

Paul Readman


Royal Historical Society



New examination of how land politics were closely entwined with the idea of Englishness.
The land question loomed large in late Victorian and Edwardian politics, playing a major part in Conservative, Liberal and Labour policymaking: in the context of concern about the faltering agricultural economy and the effects of large-scale rural-urban migration, land reforms were hotly debated in and out of parliament as never before. This book offers the first full-length study of the relationship between Englishness and the politics of land. It explores the ideas and cultural attitudes that informed political positions on the land question, from paternalist `pure squire Conservatism' to patriotic radical visions of pre-enclosure England: the author underlines how the land question excited political passion and controversy because it involved contested issues of national identity, national character and race.
By examining how land politics functioned as a site for patriotic debate, the book offers fresh insights into the ideological significance of contemporary nationalistic discourse, which in the British context has more usually been associated with war and empire than apparently `domestic' issues. In doing so, it argues for the importance of rural - but not necessarily reactionary - constructions of Englishness in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century England.

Dr PAUL READMAN is Lecturer in Modern History at King's College London.


256 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Royal Historical Society Studies in History New Series
Paperback, 9781843836520, July 2011
Hardback, 9780861932979, August 2008
Royal Historical Society
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

The English Land Question, 1880-1914
Land Reform and National Stability
Land Reform and the English National Character
Agriculture: `Our Greatest National Industry'
Property Rights and Land Reform
The Liberals and Rural Englishness
Conservative Agrarianism
Land, the Nation and the Left


A most useful book (and) a very welcome addition to the greater narrative of a national identity at an important point in its formation. CANADIAN JOURNAL OF HISTORY

A concise and lucid account. (It) offers a compelling case for the importance of ideas about land to the history of modern English politics. AGRICULTURAL HISTORY
A thorough and illuminating study of the politics of the land during the transition to mass democracy. JOURNAL OF MODERN HISTORY
(The author) tames a monumental archive in his work, amassing a body of speeches and writing surrounding the land reform debates that has been almost entirely ignored by those who examine rural visions of English identity in novels, poems or popular mass media. VICTORIAN STUDIES
(A) sophisticated, subtle and probing study (...). ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW
(An) impressive volume (which) makes important contributions to a range of crucial debates in modern British history. It will interest a range of scholars and students of politics, rural society, agriculture, national identity and land reform and provide them with a thoroughly good read. AGRICULTURAL HISTORY REVIEW
This book goes some considerable distance in filling (a) gap in the historiography. (...) Readman has written an important book that deserves to be widely read and debated by political and cultural historians, agricultural historians, imperial historians and historians of national identity. It is a gifted historian indeed who can weave together a narrative that has such wide historiographical resonance. PARLIAMENTARY HISTORY
(An) excellent addition to the Royal History Society's Studies in History New Series. (...) An impressive addition to the output of a prolific historian, and makes a very important contribution to the historiography of land, and of English politics in this period. RURAL HISTORY
An important and innovative contribution to the developing historiography on land reform. (...) This book (...) is an indispensable contribution to understanding land reform in the period 1880-1914 and has pushed the debate about these issues in new and exciting directions. It is also exceptionally well written. TWENTIETH CENTURY BRITISH HISTORY JOURNAL

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