This course is to be an interdisciplinary programme enabling students to examine, by way of a thesis, aspects of the history of the English country house between 1485 and 1945. Students will be encouraged to consider the interrelation of architectural history, art history and social history in the evolution of the country house as a political power house, a setting for the display of art and craftsmanship, a self-contained community and a symbol of continuity and loss in a changing world.
The seminar programme, which serves to complement the student’s individual research, will explore these themes in a series of ten meetings which will be addressed by some of the United Kingdom’s most distinguished country house historians. These will be prefaced by an introduction to research techniques, with particular reference to the use of primary sources such as inventories, estate records and collections of private papers; an introduction to relevant library resources available in London and through the University of Buckingham’s online subscriptions; and an introduction to the most recent academic approaches to the subject.
Each seminar will take place in the early evening, followed by a 40-minute question-and-answer session with the seminar speaker, and a dinner at which there will be further questioning of the speaker and a general conversation about the topic in hand. Four seminars will be scheduled for the period between October and December, and a further six in the period between the New Year and March.
The programme begins with an overview of the architectural and social history of the country house and an examination of recent academic perspectives on the subject, including the latest thematic and period-based approaches and studies of particular mansions and individual architects from Robert Smythson to Sir Edwin Lutyens. It goes on to discuss the changing function of the country house between 1485 and 1945, and to explore how architectural form has been modified by social change.
A series of seminar papers will then explore architectural style; the mechanics of building, owning and living in a country house; and the wider cultural context, which has seen the country house playing a crucial role in the invention of the past, from Ben Jonson’s ‘To Penshurst’ to Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.
Adrian Tinniswood, OBE, MPhil, Senior Research Fellow of the Humanities Research Institute, Buckingham, and Visiting Fellow in History and Heritage, Bath Spa
Adrian Tinniswood has a distinguished reputation as an architectural and social historian on both sides of the Atlantic. He has worked for many years as a consultant and adviser to the National Trust, and has lectured extensively on the country house and on the architecture and social history of the seventeenth century at British universities including Oxford, Bristol and Nottingham and for the University of California at Berkeley.
His books include His Invention So Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren, The Verneys (short-listed for the 2007 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction) and The Polite Tourist: Four Centuries of Country House Visiting.
His latest book, The Long Weekend: The Country House Between the Wars, is published by Jonathan Cape in March 2016.
He was awarded an OBE in 2013 for services to heritage.
For those wishing to attend the evening research seminar programme, but unable to devote the time to the coursework or to register for the MA degree, there is the option of becoming an Associate Student. This status will enable the student to attend the ten research seminars and to meet the guest lecturers, in the first six months of the programme, but does not require the submission of written work. Associate Students are not registered for, and do not receive, the MA degree.