• British Country Houses and Empire, 1700–1945
    Stephanie Barczewski
    Manchester University Press, 2014
    Stephanie Barczewski

Chinese Garden Temple at Shugborough House, 1747, Northamptonshire, England. Courtesy of Stephanie Barczewski.

Between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, British country houses served as vehicles for the expression of personal and national imperial engagement. This engagement may have been due to the direct participation of the owner or a family member in imperial commerce or administration, or it may have been a more general reflection of the presence of empire in contemporary culture. It may have been because the construction or purchase of the house was funded by imperial profits, or because the house displayed architectural styles, decorative motifs, or artifacts that had come from imperial locales. But whatever the particulars, country houses functioned as vessels for the cultural expression of empire in the British metropolitan context as much as did other genres such as literature, art and music, all of which have been more extensively discussed by scholars. However, in spite of their much more immediate connection to the people who wielded power over the British Empire—in both the metropolitan and colonial arenas—the relationship between country houses and empire has been largely ignored.

Stephanie Barczewski is professor of history at Clemson University, where she has taught since 1996. A specialist in the cultural history of modern Britain, she is the author of three books: Myth and National Identity in Nineteenth-Century Britain: The Legends of King Arthur and Robin Hood (Oxford, 2000); Titanic: A Night Remembered (Hambledon/Palgrave Macmillan, 2003); and Antarctic Destinies: Scott, Shackleton and the Changing Face of Heroism (Continuum, 2007). Her study of country houses and empire in Britain from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries will be followed by a project on heroic failure in British culture (Yale University Press) and a coauthored textbook on British history since 1688 (Routledge).