Exercise 4.2

The British landscape during World War II

Read the short extract from ‘ Landscape for Everyone ’, published in John Taylor (1994) A Dream of England: Landscape, Photography and the Tourist’s Imagination (available in your student resources).
Summarise the key points in your learning log, along with any other observations or reflections.

LP&E, p.143

Here’s the chapter.

Taylor, J. (1994) A Dream of England: Landscape, Photography and the Tourist’s Imagination. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Taylor’s chapter explores public attitudes towards and media treatments of the British countryside before and during WW2.

There is a 1920s book of Hoppe’s GB landscape photographs, which is rather expensive to buy, but Dr Marcus Bunyan has many of the 304 images from the book in three pages of his blog – Art Blart

C. F. G. Masterman wrote the introduction to Hoppé’s book and his view of British (or English) history is episodic, dropping in and out for highlights over the centuries (of course, this is a common approach to history which was, until recently, taught in sequences of dates corresponding to series of monarchs and battles). Masterman also stated his fear of the destruction of the countryside through excessive industrialisation.

By 1940, fears had turned to invasion, with the underlying notion that, whatever the outcome, some core values of Britishness would endure (C. Henry Warren, England is a Village, 1944). The experience of the countryside was changing through the policy of anonymisation (removing road signs and so on to confuse invaders) and the fact that travel was restricted by petrol rationing.

It became patriotic to experience the countryside through reminiscence of pre-war memories. Editors favoured countryside photographs that included child evacuees.

The 1930s had seen the rise of militant ramblers determined to both maintain and establish rights if way, a cause that continues to be controversial today.

There are two illustrations in the extract, rather poorly reproduced contrasting the British and German ways of life (fig. B1) and illustrating the British way of life (fig. B2). Taylor’s descriptions are shown.

A flock of sheep wandered through an English village, in contrast to a regimented march on an urban German road, fig. B1.

Taylor quotes the patriotic 1940 Picture Post article,

This is a war for everything that we can see from our own window. For the cottage at the end of the lane, and the old bridge by the mill. We are fighting for the very soil and stuff of Britain. Intact for a thousand years, it is not to be tampered with now. Lambeth Walk is not to be a stamping ground for the storm-troopers. Stratford-on-Avon is to be no site for Goering to build a castle.

Picture Post, 13 July 1940

and draws attention to the class emphasising the piece,

It was important to forget differences at home, because each class had much to lose. The workers would lose the benefits of union and the freedom to dig their own garden or gossip in the pub. The industrialists and landowners would lose their inheritance. The ‘great mass of the middle classes’ (which included lawyers, journalists and tradesmen) would lose ‘the pleasant margin of choice in their lives’, and be dictated what was legal, what they could write, or they might be ‘squeezed out of business’.

Taylor, 1994, quoting the Picture Post, 1941

In summary, Taylor’s view of media reaction to the early years are of WW2 is that it emphasised strength in diversity, choice and a proud heritage. The cynical viewer might observe that little has changed in the subsequent 80 years, at least in certain areas of the British press (the Mail and Express come particularly to mind).

LPE Exc 4.2 References

Alexander, J, Conroy, A, Hughes, A, & Lundy, G (2019) Landscape, Place and Environment [LPE]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Hoppe, EO. (1926) Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape cover. Berlin: Ernst Wasmuth A.G.

Taylor, J. (1994) A Dream of England: Landscape, Photography and the Tourist’s Imagination. Manchester: Manchester University Press.