Friday 28 July 2017

Book Review: The Englishman's England by Ian Ousby

Title: The Englishman's England
Author: Ian Ousby
Publisher: Thistle Publishing
Publication Date: 2016 (1990)
Pages: 240
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley

In this fascinating and original study Ian Ousby investigates the landmarks chosen by the English for their leisure travel over the centuries. He looks in particular at four types of attraction still prominent on the tourist map of England: literary shrines, country houses, picturesque ruins and the natural landscape. All these first became objects of fashionable attention during the eighteenth century, when improvements in transport combined with a spirit of practical inquiry to breed the first generation of travellers who called themselves ‘tourists’.

Drawing on a wide range of sources - journals, travel books and guidebooks, novels and poems, as well as many engravings – Ian Ousby traces the canons of taste which led the early tourists to seek out places like Stratford-upon-Avon, Chatsworth, Tintern Abbey and the Lake District, and records the stages by which these places acquired the trappings of the tourist attraction. Above all, he shows the development not just of an industry but of a state of mind marked, from its earliest phase, by the underlying fear that tourism is fated to spoil or even destroy the very thing it most admires. (Goodreads Synopsis)

On the whole, I found The Englishman's England to be an entertaining and interesting read. In it, Ousby considers the history of tourism through the growing 18th century desire to visit places of literary connection and natural beauty, along with the ever-increasing trend of touring country houses. This work is an intriguing social study and I particularly enjoyed Ousby's inclusion of snippets from contemporary accounts of some of the places still visited today. I imagine that this book will appeal both to the seasoned traveller and those interested in 18th century social history.

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