RHS Sponsored Lecture: ‘Country Walks Through Colonial Britain’

4 June 2024


‘Country Walks Through Colonial Britain’


RHS Lecture with Professor Corinne Fowler

held on 23 May 2024
at Brunel University London, and online



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The countryside is cherished by many Britons. There is a depth of feeling about rural places: moors and lochs, valleys and mountains, cottages and country houses. Yet the British countryside, so integral to narratives of nationhood and belonging (and also exclusion), is rarely seen as having anything to do with colonialism.

Focusing on the many connections between imperial wealth and British landscapes, this lecture explores how empire affected rural labour and country life. The profits of overseas colonial activities, and the select few who benefited, heralded change which was not merely expressed in the designed landscapes of country estates but also by enclosure, landownership and dispossession. Generally considered separately, this talk considers how these intertwined histories continue to shape lives across Britain today.

Corinne’s lecture is a partnership between the Royal Historical Society and Brunel University. It forms the concluding event in the Society’s day visit to historians at Brunel.

Speaker Biography

Corinne Fowler is Professor of Colonialism and Heritage in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. In 2020 Corinne co-authored an audit of peer-reviewed research about National Trust properties’ connections to empire, which became a major news story. The report won the Museums and Heritage Judges’ Special Recognition Award 2022, and the Eastern Eye Community Engagement Award , in 2023.

Between 2018 and 2022, Corinne directed Colonial Countryside: National Trust Houses Reinterpreted, a child-led history and writing project with 100 primary pupils and commissioned writers. Her recent publications include Green Unpleasant Land: Creative Responses to Rural England’s Colonial Connections (2020, Peepal Tree Press) and Our Island Stories: Country Walks Through Colonial Britain (Penguin Allen Lane: May 2024).