Men from the Ministry: How Britain Saved Its Heritage (Hardback)
|Format:||Hardback 224 pages|
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Between 1900 and 1950 the British state amassed a huge collection of over 800 historic buildings, monuments and historic sites and opened them to the public. Nothing like it had ever been seen before. Of course, collections of paintings, sculptures, and books had been made by governments, but the British created an outdoor museum of national history. This book explains why the extraordinary collecting frenzy took place. It locates it in the fragile and nostalgic atmosphere of the interwar years, dominated by neo-romanticism and cultural protectionism. It dissects a government programme that established a modern state on deep historical and rural roots; in the words of the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, heritage was the rock out of which the nation's children would be hewn. The government's activities were mirrored by the establishment of dozens of voluntary bodies, including the Council for the Protection of Rural England, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and the National Trust. It was during the Second World War when the government realized that its collecting activities could not be sustained but that the National Trust could provide a vehicle for the continued collection of the nation's heritage. It was the war too that extended for the first time protection to buildings that were occupied and not just ruins. The book sets all this activity, for the first time, in its political, economic and cultural contexts, painting a picture of a country traumatized by war, fearful of losing what was left of its history, and a government that actively set out to protect them. In the last chapter it brings the story up to date.
Yale University Press
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