AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award: Country House Politics after 1950

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AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award - Populism, permutation and persuasion: Country house politics after 1950.

This DPhil project is concerned with the role of the independently owned country house in political and cultural discourse from the 1950s to the present day. It builds on earlier work by Peter Mandler (1997), John Cornforth (1999), Patrick Wright (2009) and Ruth Adams (2013) and aims to extend this field through interrogation of different public policy approaches to the fate of country house heritage in diverse political contexts. The study will go to the heart of current policy debates about the nature and meaning of historic house heritage, its significance and public value, and the future of the ‘public private partnership’ between owners and the state in its long-term care.

The DPhil will investigate:

  • Public policy responses to perceived problems facing historic house heritage, and the efficacy of different approaches by governments (fiscal, regulatory, direct ownership/management);
  • The varied responses of owners and their representatives to the policies of different political administrations over time, and the development of advocacy and political networks, as traced through hitherto unexamined archival collections held by Historic Houses and its house members;
  • The deployment of the country house and landed estate within political discourse by actors from across the political spectrum, whether as metaphor for governmentality itself (such as in tropes of ‘good housekeeping’, or alternatively of ‘ruin’ and ‘collapse’), as emblems signalling particular ideological stances (whether on the left or right), and as the physical arenas for political action.

There have been numerous studies of the evolution of heritage as a concern of public policy, but to date there has not been a comprehensive academic examination of the politics of the independently owned country house in recent times. This will be the first time that much of the twentieth-century research material at Historic Houses will be subject to academic scrutiny.

This study will transform the academic field by examining the evolution of the current and ongoing fiscal and regulatory framework for the protection of significant heritage property, through measures such as conditional exemption, heritage maintenance funds, acceptance-in-lieu, export licensing controls and listed building protection. It will provide for an in-depth case study of the evolution of Historic Houses, within the heritage sector context of amenity societies and charitable organisations, as a force for political influence. It will demonstrate the continued significance of historic house heritage in the 21st century from multiple, if sometimes contested, perspectives.