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The Englishman’s England: Taste, Travel and the Rise of Tourism

By Ian Ousby

‘If my journals should remain legible, or be perused at the end of 200 years, there will, even then, be little curious in them relative to travel, or the people; because our island is now so explored; our roads, in general, are so fine; and our speed has reach’d the summit.’

Or so one late eighteenth-century traveller thought, reminding us that the English tourist industry is not the modern creation we often suppose.

In this fascinating and original study, Ian Ousby investigates the landmarks chosen by the English for their leisure travel over the centuries. He looks particularly 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.

Praise for The Englishman’s England: Taste, Travel and the Rise of Tourism:

‘In relating the evolution of such attractions as Poet’s Corner, Stratford-upon-Avon, Stonehenge and the Lake District, Ian Ousby — a specialist in both the literature and the topography of England — illuminates great stretches of this country’s social and cultural history’ – The Independent

‘Witty, well-focused, highly pertinent… His slice of late eighteenth-century cultural history, from the rise of road maps to the vain thunderings of Wordsworth against the depredations of vulgar trippers, is oddly reassuring in its ageless vision of good taste shuddering at the onrush of mass enthusiasm’ – The Observer

Ian Ousby
 (1947–2001) was a British historian, author and editor. Educated at Cambridge and Harvard, his published works include The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English.

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