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From field walking to phenomenology: a review of recent British landscape historiography

Burchardt, J. ORCID: (2024) From field walking to phenomenology: a review of recent British landscape historiography. The Historical Journal. ISSN 0018-246X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1017/S0018246X24000104


This review identifies three major traditions in British landscape historiography: material/environmental, cultural, and phenomenological. The continuing vitality, methodological rigour, and popular reach of the material tradition is emphasized, notwithstanding persistent questions about the adequacy of its theoretical foundations. Its close cousin historical ecology has meanwhile developed into a broader environmental history, increasingly sensitive to ideological and institutional influences. The development of the cultural tradition, originating in art historical analysis of the ‘landscape idea’ as a culturally specific ‘way of seeing’, is traced through a rich proliferation of studies connecting landscape with memory, national identity, and governance, and through feminist, postcolonial, and history-from-below perspectives. The pervasive influence of the spatial, mobilities, and material turns is highlighted but phenomenology’s focus on experience perhaps challenges the cultural tradition’s premises more fundamentally. Although historians were slower than anthropologists and archaeologists to adopt phenomenology, medievalists and early modernists have applied it rewardingly to topics such as the settings of elite buildings, peasant landscape perceptions, and collective landscape memories. Few modernists have yet embraced phenomenology but it has great potential here given the abundant life-writing sources available. While scope remains for further convergence between research traditions, British landscape history is therefore in an exciting phase of methodological renewal.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > History
ID Code:115838
Uncontrolled Keywords:landscape historiography phenomenology
Publisher:Cambridge University Press


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