The Englishman's England

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Aug 2017

Member Reviews

This book concerns the tourism of England and focuses on four main areas. These are literary shrines, especially that of the Romantics, such as Wordsworth; country houses, such as Strawberry Hill; ancient monuments, such as Stonehenge and the natural landscape and how man had his affect on this in good ways and bad.
I did enjoy this book but felt that in some cases it was a bit long winded and dare I say boring. Overall though I did find myself looking at the countryside in a different way.
I was given this book by NetGalley and the publisher. This is my voluntary review.
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Recommended for fans of travel writers such as Bill Bryson. I enjoyed much of the book although I found some of the passages more interesting and readable than others.  Enjoyed it overall.
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This is the perfect book for people who enjoyed Bill Bryson's stories about traipsing around England and the landmarks he found in his walks. Ousby brings us an entertaining history of the tourism industry in England. He gathered primary sources to support his stories and takes us around the island to various sites with literary and historical significance.
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"The Englishman's England" looked at what sites and objects drew the interest of the eighteenth century tourist. The author looked at traveler's letters, diaries, journals, and guide books to see what sites they visited and what they thought about them. He often quoted from these sources. If one tourist talked about a place, others soon came to visit until it turned into a tourist trap. Locals sold mementos, guides demanded fees, stations were marked out for ideal viewing of a scene, or cannons, singing, or instruments were used to heighten the traveler's experience.

The author looked at the literary shrines they visited (graves or monuments to an author, the places the author wrote about, their birth places, etc.), their opinions about various fancy country houses (and the fees and attitudes of those allowing or guiding these tours), the draw of ruins like Stonehenge or of old abbeys and cathedrals, and places in the Peak District and Lake District that drew people for the caves, crags, and views. He talked about changing tastes reflected in how they viewed various sites and what they criticized.

These sites were usually under private ownership at the time, so what the owners did with the sites provoked discussion about how far a site (like a ruin) should be preserved in its present state or developed to accommodate tourists. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting book.
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This book looks at traveling in England and how it changed over the hundred years from the mid-17th Century to the mid-18th (mostly pre-railroad). It looks at four types of destinations: literary sites, country homes, ruins, and natural features. 

The plurality of the book is spent on natural features. Full of quotes by writers of the time, it does a good job of supporting the author's contentions that:
-- even at this time there was a notion of tourist in our modern sense 
-- most of these places had a commercial aspect even over 200 years ago
-- our philosophies and ideas are reflected in how we perceive things, especially Nature, and shape what we do with them
-- in becoming popular many of these sites change
-- with many of these sites there is a balance between conservation and renovation that began to be apparent as early as Wordsworth's time

While the book is interesting, I thought the tone was overly pedantic and ponderous, especially in the last chapter which covers nature. Ousby seems to have definite ideas about the national interest and government involvement in these sites but he never really presents the arguments in favor of national control and the common good. 

The book would have been better if he had.
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I love well researched nonfiction, and I certainly liked this book's premise. What is a traveler, and what is a tourist? Where do the two part ways? In what way were 18th century English travelers not tourists; where did they go; and what did they expect of their visits? I felt, however, that the book didn't answer its own questions well. While there were interesting tales told along the way, I felt that the author simply piled on as much research as possible as evidence in each site explored. For me, the book needed researcher editing (sometimes less is more), and I was bogged down instead of enlightened and intrigued.
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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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