Rethinking the Rural Idyll: The English Rural Community Movement, 1913–26
Author: Burchardt, Jeremy
Source: Cultural and Social History, 1 March 2011, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 73-94(22)
Abstract:This article examines the contribution of the rural community movement to representations of the English countryside. It argues that the movement played an important part in formulating and promoting a new understanding of the relationship between countryside and community after the First World War. Whilst nineteenth-century criticism of the isolating, anomic characteristics of urban life had often invoked idealized historical rural communities, in the inter-war period community was increasingly seen as an attribute of the contemporary countryside. The article traces the intellectual origins of this conceptual shift to two influences: American ideas about rurality, especially as transmitted by Sir Horace Plunkett, and the philosophy of T.H. Green. The emergence of this new understanding was not, however, a rarefied, self-contained intellectual event. On the contrary, the article argues that it corresponded to the rise of a new social group, public-sector professionals, which sought to project an idealized version of its own likeness onto the countryside. This construction of rural community played a prominent part in mid- and late-twentieth-century perceptions of the English countryside, calling into question the prevailing historiographical assumption that such perceptions were generated by, or at least served the interests of, the rural elite. The article concludes that more attention should be paid to the specifically middle-class contribution to the development of the English rural idyll.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Department of History, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AA, UK;, Email: email@example.com
Publication date: 2011-03-01T00:00:00