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The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity, and Memory in Early Modern Britain and Ireland

  • The first major study of the impact of religious change on the landscape of the British Isles
  • Connects the religious upheavals of the era with other cultural and intellectual trends, including the growth of antiquarianism and developments in medicine and science
  • Draws on deep and extensive research, and exploits a wide variety of printed and manuscript sources
  • Ambitious geographical and chronological range: covers Britain and Ireland in its entirety; focuses on the period 1500-1750 but extends backwards to the early medieval period and forwards into the nineteenth century
  • Richly detailed and extensively illustrated

By: Alexandra Walsham(Author)

656 pages, 52 b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press

Paperback | Feb 2012 | #212604 | ISBN-13: 9780199654383
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £25.99 $35/€30 approx
Hardback | Feb 2011 | #212605 | ISBN-13: 9780199243556
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £38.99 $53/€44 approx

About this book

The Reformation of the Landscape is a richly detailed and original study of the relationship between the landscape of Britain and Ireland and the tumultuous religious changes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It explores how the profound theological and liturgical transformations that marked the era between 1500 and 1750 both shaped, and were in turn shaped by, the places and spaces within the physical environment in which they occurred. Moving beyond churches, cathedrals, and monasteries, it investigates how the Protestant and Catholic Reformations affected perceptions and practices associated with trees, woods, springs, rocks, mountain peaks, prehistoric monuments, and other distinctive topographical features of the British Isles.

Drawing on extensive research and embracing insights from a range of disciplines, Alexandra Walsham examines the origins, immediate consequences, and later repercussions of these movements of religious renewal, together with the complex but decisive modifications of belief and behaviour to which they gave rise. It demonstrates how ecclesiastical developments intersected with other intellectual and cultural trends, including the growth of antiquarianism and the spread of the artistic and architectural Renaissance, the emergence of empirical science and shifting fashions within the spheres of medicine and healing. Set within a chronological framework that stretches backwards towards the early Middle Ages and forwards into the nineteenth century, The Reformation of the Landscape assesses the critical part played by the landscape in forging confessional identities and in reconfiguring collective and social memory. It illuminates the ways in which the visible world was understood and employed by the diverse religious communities that occupied the British Isles, and shows how it became a battleground in which bitter struggles about the significance of the Christian and pagan past were waged.

"One ends this impressive book wanting more and we can hope that a flotilla of new studies by other scholars will appear in its wake."
– Kenneth Fincham, History Today

"a fascinating account of the religious and cultural changes in Early Modern attitudes to shrines, stones, rocks, springs and much else besides [...] a work of deep historical imagination."
– Richard Sennett, Times Literary Supplement

" [...] subtle and important. [...] Recommended as a Book of the Year 2011"
– Karl Miller, Times Literary Supplement

"Walsham presents an admirably complex rendering of the British and Irish landscape"
– Elizabeth Yale, Social History of Medicine

"This book represents the crowning glory of a new turn in Reformation historiography. Rather than the customary focus upon the origins, speed, direction and popularity of England's sixteenth-century Reformations, Walsham illuminates their impact upon the landscape with unparalleled breadth, variety and sophistication."
– Andrew Hopper, Rural History

"The Reformation of the Landscape is an astonishing accomplishment [...] This is not just a book for historians of the landscape, or even Reformation historians. It is a book for anybody with at least a passing interest in the history of Britain or its constituent parts, in its religion, its culture, its social practices, its memory or its national identity/identities. Within its pages the landscape is lovingly revealed, not as a backdrop for human actors, or an occasional participant in events, but as an active agent in our history, and a rich, multifarious and constantly evolving record of the past as experienced by all who lived in it."
– Jonathan Willis, English Historical Review

"This is an important book: of encouragement and example, as well as stimulation and provocation."
– Paul Everson, Landscape History


1: Loca Sacra: Religion and the Landscape before the Reformation
2: Idols in the Landscape: The Impact of Protestant Reform
3: Britannia Sancta: Catholicism, Counter Reformation, and the Landscape
4: The Religious Regeneration of the Landscape: Ritual, Rehabilitation, and Renewal
5: God's Great Book in Folio: Providence, Science, and the Natural Environment
6: Therapeutic Waters: Religion, Medicine, and the Landscape
7: Invented Traditions: Legend, Custom, and Memory


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Alexandra Walsham was educated at the Universities of Melbourne and Cambridge. After completing her doctorate, she held a research fellowship at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, prior to her appointment as Lecturer in History at the University of Exeter in 1996. Until recently she was Professor of Reformation History and Head of Department at Exeter. In September 2010 she took up the post of Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge. She is a fellow of Trinity College and of the British Academy.

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