I had the great privilege of speaking with Professor Corinne Fowler of the University of Leicester, who is also Director of ‘Colonial Countryside: National Trust Houses Reinterpreted’. That conversation was recorded with Professor Fowler’s consent on Monday 5th April 2021, and is shared here on that basis.
Professor Fowler is an expert in the legacies of colonialism and postcolonialism in literature, heritage and representations of British history and has been seconded to the National Trust to help lay the foundations for new approaches to training, interpretation and programming about country houses’ colonial connections.
This important work has led to deeply unfair headlines about the ‘rewriting of history‘. There have been numerous attacks and gratuitous misrepresentations of Corinne’s work in the press. And in the storm, the subtleties and beauty of the work is lost; its bright innocence smudged.
Corinne created a child-led history and writing project funded by Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund – Colonial Countryside: National Trust Houses Reinterpreted. The project involves school children visiting country houses and re-telling the stories of the properties and the people involved in their histories to reflect the evidence and perspectives that are often overlooked but which mattered to them.
Listen on Spotify:
If you’d like to understand more about the legacies of colonialism and postcolonialism and representations of British history I urge you to read Corinne’s book Green Unpleasant Land, and not the stories others write about it.
Green Unpleasant Land connects England’s outward-reaching histories to what was happening in the countryside in these islands: the enclosure of common land, the beginnings of industrial mass farming and the reshaping of landownership through imperial profits.
As so often, history holds a lesson for the present, and the heated media response to such work shows just what is at stake.
“The historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence”T.S. Eliot, Four Quarters
Imagining the future – https://sanjitchudha.com/2020/01/03/imagining-the-future/
The coloniality of planting: legacies of racism and slavery in the practice of botany – https://www.architectural-review.com/essays/the-coloniality-of-planting or listen to the podcast where the issues are discussed more fully: https://www.botanicalmind.online/podcasts/the-coloniality-of-planting