The Empire in the garden: The British Empire, gardens and national identity in 19th and early 20th century Britain.
Royal Holloway, University of London
Year of enrolment: 2014 -
Supervisors: Dr Zoe Laidlaw and Professor Felix Driver
Gardens owned by the National Trust alone received 19.2 million visits in 2012/13, making garden visiting one of the chief forms of leisure pursuit enjoyed in the United Kingdom. The gardens of Great Britain are a global attraction, often viewed as an important element of the nation’s heritage. Yet there has been limited enquiry into the social and economic, as distinct from aesthetic and horticultural, forces which elevated the English garden to its emblematic status. In particular, our understanding of the role of Britain’s empire in creating the nation’s deep identification with its gardens is still partial.
Gardens were the beneficiaries not only of climate, but of complex networks established through innovations in trade, navigation and science, all of which had an imperial orientation. The aim of this interdisciplinary research project, supervised by Dr Zoe Laidlaw, Reader in British Imperial and Colonial History and Professor Felix Driver, Professor of Human Geography, is to investigate the ways in which the British Empire influenced the development of gardens in Great Britain during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and how this in turn affected the relationship between British gardens and national identity.
My research will draw on regional case studies as well as analysis of the gardening literature of the period. My research project will also seek to examine how the empire’s influence on the English garden has been narrated to the visiting public, and how public historical exposition of this imperial history might be developed. I am particularly interested in opportunities to collaborate with TECHNE partners and other institutions with an interest in scientific collecting or maritime exploration, and with custodians of historic gardens.