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Reevaluating the English Landscape Garden

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Garden history has finally developed a conscience and has begun to reevaluate the landscapes and gardens it admires.

Returning primarily to the English Landscape Gardens so prominent in the history of gardens, we discuss the contrast between their creation of the sublime and Picturesque and the source of the wealth that ultimately paid for them: focusing primarily upon slavery, colonialism and the trade of The East India Company.

That symbol of refinement, connoisseurship and civility, The British country house, has long been regarded not only as the jewel in the nation’s heritage crown, but as an iconic signifier of national identity. And while an increasing number of historians were interested in the wider significance of country houses, either with reference to the continuing influence of the landed elite

in mainland Britain or its internal social history, it is only in the last 20 years that the relationship between landed wealth, British properties and enslaved African labour began to emerge.

Wealth deriving from the trade in and labour of enslaved Africans did affect the erection, renovation and occupation of a significant number of Britain’s stately homes between the 1660s and the 1820s, but that there is also a web of wider, more indirect slavery associations with such properties that also merit consideration.

Furthermore, we will discuss that both the merchants and the members of Britain’s landed elite who were involved in the proliferation of country houses from the late 17th century (the latter to consolidate their status and the former to gain entry into that elite) increasingly utilised notions of gentility, sensibility and cultural refinement in part to distance themselves from their actual connections to the Atlantic slave economy.

Learning and teaching

There will be lectures, case studies and group discussions.

Coursework and assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning.

Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

Reading suggestions

  • Beckett, J V 1986–1914. Oxford: Basil Blackwell
  • Bowen, H 1996 Elites,.Enterprise.and.the.Making.of.the.British.Overseas.Empire,.1688–1775. Basingstoke: MacMillan Press
  • Bowen, H 1996 Elites,.Enterprise.and.the.Making.of.the.British.Overseas.Empire,.1688–1775. Basingstoke and London: MacMillan Press
  • Cooper, N 1999 Houses.of.the.Gentry.1480–1680. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
  • Curtin, P D 1984 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Defoe, D 1728 A.Plan.of.the.English.Commerce. London
  • Draper, N 2010 The.Price.of.Emancipation:.Slave-ownership, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Dresser, M 2001 London: Continuum.
  • Fry, C 2003 ‘Spanning the political divide: Neo-Palladianism and the early eighteenth-century landscape’. Garden.History 31
  • Morgan, K 1993 Eighteenth.Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
  • Strong, R, Binney, M and Harris, J (eds) 1974 The.Destruction.of.the.Country.House,.1875–1975. London: Thames and Hudson,
  • Thomas, H 1997 The.Slave.Trade:.The.History.of.the.Atlantic.Slave.Trade.1440–1870. London: Picador
  • Tobin, B F 1999 British.Art. Durham, NC: Duke University Press
  • Wilton, J 2003 ‘Decolonizing Mansfield.Park’., LIII,
  • Williams, E 1964 Capitalism.and.Slavery. London: Andre Deutsch.
  • Zahedieh, N 2010 The.Capital.and.the.Colonies:.London.and.the.Atlantic.Economy,.1660–1720. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.