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Rethinking British Romantic History, 1770–1845$
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Porscha Fermanis and John Regan

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199687084

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199687084.001.0001

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‘To trace thy country’s glories to their source’

‘To trace thy country’s glories to their source’

Dangerous History in Thomas Pennant’s Tour in Wales

(p.121) 5 ‘To trace thy country’s glories to their source’
Rethinking British Romantic History, 1770–1845

Mary-Ann Constantine

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines how the heterogeneous genre of the ‘home tour’ contributed to the convergence of narrative and antiquarian research that marks historical writing to this day. Focusing on the ways in which Thomas Pennant’s Tour in Wales (1778–83) extends topographical writing by William Gilpin and others by mapping a historical appraisal onto physically neutral space and matter, the chapter demonstrates how space, landscape, and other physical phenomena can reveal sites of contest and controversy which reflect upon the fragile state of Britishness and nationhood more generally in the period. It argues that drawing on the unreflecting earth rarely results in the construction of a neutral or benign history, evoking instead unsettling reflections on the pressures of the dangerous past and the threat they pose to a larger narrative of Britishness.

Keywords:   Wales, Thomas Pennant, Tour in Wales, home tour, space, landscape, antiquarianism, Britishness, nationhood, history

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