How do historians know the past? Documentary evidence is obviously key. Visual and material culture is important too. But historians also know the past through in-person, often on-foot, encounters with landscape.
Reflecting on Professor Readman’s past and current work, this lecture explores how embodied experience of landscape has played a pivotal—and to date underappreciated—role in history writing between the late eighteenth century and the present. For historians of various kinds—from amateur antiquarians to university-based professionals—it supplied observable, open-air evidence. But, more profoundly, it was critical in stimulating their historical imaginations, allowing them to recover the richness of past human experience, in place as well as time. These are points worth emphasising today, when our sense impressions, understanding and navigation of the outside world are increasingly mediated by digital technology. While the benefit such technology brings to the historian cannot be denied, this lecture reasserts the importance of direct personal experience of the physical environment to our understanding of the past, and—following the philosopher R.G. Collingwood—our reenactment of it as history. Through such means is the past fully realised as history.
For more information and to register, please visit: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/events/landscape-and-the-writing-of-history