Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Heritage Culture

Questions to prepare for seminar:

  1. Why did twentieth-century Britain see the emergence of a heritage culture?
  2. Has the modern British interest in heritage been a healthy or harmful feature of national life?
  3. Why is family history so popular?
  4. What is the point of the monarchy?

     Core Reading:

    • Jerome de Groot, Consuming History: Historians and Heritage in Contemporary Popular Culture (2009).
    • Hilary Mantel, 'Royal Bodies', London Review of Books 35:4 (21 Feb 2013), 3-7.


    Further Reading:

    • For a broad perspective: David Lowenthal, The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History (1997); Jerome de Groot, Consuming History: Historians and Heritage in Contemporary Popular Culture (2009) - ebook
    • For the history of heritage in Britain: Michael Hunter (ed.), Preserving the Past: The Rise of Heritage in Modern Britain (1996); for an account of the changing fortunes of the country house over two centuries: P. Mandler, The Fall and Rise of the Stately Home (1997).
    • On the distortion of the past in heritage culture: D. Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country (1985).
    • For the view that the heritage industry has exploited a sense of national decline (and that its impact has been conservative): Patrick Wright, On Living in and Old Country: the National Past in Contemporary Britain (1985); Robert Hewison, The Heritage Industry: Britain in a Climate of Decline (1987). And from a rather different political perspective: M. Wiener, English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit (1981).
    • A US academic perspective on the appeal of heritage culture: Antoinette Burton, ‘When was Britain? Nostalgia for the Nation at the End of the “American Century”’, Journal of Modern History, 75 (2003), 359-79.
    • More on the heritage vogue in film: G. Eley, ‘How is the National Past Imagined? National Sentimentality, True Feeling, and the Heritage Film, 1980-1995’ in P. Levine and S. Grayzel (eds.), Gender, Labour, War and Empire (2009).
    • A more benign and democratic view of heritage’s appeal: Raphael Samuel, Theatres of Memory (1994); and for a defence of British history in the national curriculum: Raphael Samuel, Island Stories (1998), Part III: ‘History, the Nation and Schools’.
    • On heritage and the public: N. Merriman, Beyond the Glass Case: the Past, Heritage and the Public in Britain (1994).
    • On the role of History in shaping and spreading ideas about national character at the start of the period: Reba Soffer, 'The Modern University and National Values, 1850-1930', Historical Research, 60 (1987); Reba Soffer, ' Nation, Duty, Character and Confidence: History at Oxford, 1850-1914', Historical Journal, 30 (1987); David Cannadine, M. Trevelyan: A Life in History.
    • On history and the media and debate about the state of the discipline: David Cannadine (ed.), History and the Media (2004) – ebook; David Cannadine, (ed.) What is History Now? (2004)
    • On the monarchy: Tom Nairn, The Enchanted Glass: Britain and its Monarchy (1998); David Cannadine, ‘The Context, Performance and Meaning of Ritual: The British Monarchy and the “Invention of Tradition”, c. 1820-1977’, in E. Hobsbawm & T. Ranger (eds.), The Invention of Tradition; E. Shils & M. Young, ‘The Meaning of the Coronation’, Sociological Review (1953); Philip Ziegler, Crown and People (1978); J. Ellis, ‘Reconciling the Celt: British National Identity, Empire, and the 1911 Investiture of the Prince of Wales’, Journal of British Studies, 37 (1998); Ben Pimlott, The Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth II (1996); Tony Walter (ed.), Mourning for Diana (1999); John Davies, Diana: A Cultural History (2001); A. Olechnowicz, The Monarchy and the British Nation, 1780 to the Present (2007); A. Olechnowicz, ‘Britain’s Quasi-Magical Monarchy in the Mid-Twentieth Century’, in C. Griffiths, J. Nott and Whyte (eds.), Classes, Cultures and Politics; Cannadine, D. (1992) The Context, Performance and Meaning of Ritual: The British Monarchy and the 'Invention of Tradition', c. 1820- 1977. In: Hobsbawm, E. The invention of tradition. 2nd ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Ch.4, pp.101-164 (Digitised Source).