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Polite Landscapes: Gardens and Society in 18th-Century England

Overview

Parks and gardens of eighteenth-century England are usually understood as the creations of individual geniuses like William kent, Capability Brown, and Humphry Repton. But this wasn't necessarily a view shared by their contemporaries. Landowners typically had strong ideas about how their property should look and how it should function. And, according to Tom Williamson, other powerful influences were at work as well.

In Polite Landscapes Williamson examines the wider social, ...

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Overview

Parks and gardens of eighteenth-century England are usually understood as the creations of individual geniuses like William kent, Capability Brown, and Humphry Repton. But this wasn't necessarily a view shared by their contemporaries. Landowners typically had strong ideas about how their property should look and how it should function. And, according to Tom Williamson, other powerful influences were at work as well.

In Polite Landscapes Williamson examines the wider social, economic, and political implications of these extraordinary creations. He reveals how the aristocracy and gentry -- who paid for and lived in these remarkable private landscapes -- participated in their creation for a variety of complex interests and needs. More than simply a grand setting for a country house, the park and garden had to accommodate farming and forestry enterprises and serve as a proper setting for hunting, riding and other recreational activities. They also needed to conform to the aesthetic principles of the landowner's favorite philosophers and landscape gardeners.

Emphasizing the practical relationship between landowners (who were demanding clients) and artists (who were also businessmen), Williamson shows how changing fashions of landscape design expressed the broader currents of social and economic development in eighteenth-century England. He examines a wide range of properties -- including homes of gentry and middle class as well as those of the nobility -- and assesses the impact of the English landscape garden on the rest of the world. Illustrated with dozens of contemporary maps, plans, and paintings, Polite Landscapes is a book for anyone with a serious interest in gardens,parks, great houses, and the English landscape.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Private parks and gardens in 18th-century England had to accommodate farming and forestry enterprises, serve as a setting for hunting and riding, and conform to the aesthetic principles of the landowner's favorite philosophers and landscapers. Williamson (landscape history, U. of East Anglia) examines the wider social, economic, and political implications of park and garden designs and reveals how the aristocracy and gentry who lived in these fabulous landscapes participated in their creation. Contains b&w illustrations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801852053
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1986
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 7.04 (w) x 10.07 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Williamson is lecturer in landscape history at the Centre of East Anglian Studies at the University of East Anglia and co-editor of the journal Rural History. His books include Ley Lines in Question, Property and Landscape, and Parks and Gardens.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgements
1 Gardens and History 1
2 The Triumph of Geometry: c. 1680 to c. 1735 19
3 The Challenge to Geometry 48
4 The Age of Brown 77
5 Property and Prospect 100
6 'Beauty and Utility' 119
7 Repton and the Picturesque 141
8 Postscript: Beyond Georgian England 160
Notes 169
Index 178
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