The land question loomed large in late Victorian and Edwardian politics, playing a major part in Conservative, Liberal and Labour policymaking: in the context of concern about the faltering agricultural economy and the effects of large-scale rural-urban migration, land reforms were hotly debated in and out of parliament as never before. This book offers the first full-length study of the relationship between Englishness and the politics of land. It explores the ideas and cultural attitudes that informed political positions on the land question, from paternalist `pure squire Conservatism' to patriotic radical visions of pre-enclosure England: the author underlines how the land question excited political passion and controversy because it involved contested issues of national identity, national character and race.
By examining how land politics functioned as a site for patriotic debate, the book offers fresh insights into the ideological significance of contemporary nationalistic discourse, which in the British context has more usually been associated with war and empire than apparently `domestic' issues. In doing so, it argues for the importance of rural - but not necessarily reactionary - constructions of Englishness in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century England.
Dr PAUL READMAN is Lecturer in Modern History at King's College London.