Archive for Heritage & History

On and off, maybe, but I’ve been writing about ‘heritage’ and the presentation of history within Britain since the early nineteen eighties.  The articles gathered here were written over decades that saw historical conservation become a major theme and, for better or worse, an issue over which wider battles were fought.

Looking north from Brough Castle, 3 September 2007

Search this website:

Restoration Tragedy »

September 13th, 2003 | Posted in: Articles General, Heritage & History

This article takes the launch of BBC2’s series ‘Restoration’ as an occasion, or an excuse, to suggest that a critical perspective on heritage has actually emerged from within the conservation movement, and not just from the derision of metropolitan literary snobs. Published in the Guardian, 13 September 2003.

Review of Raphael Samuel’s Theatres of Memory »

February 4th, 1995 | Posted in: Articles General, Heritage & History

A review of Raphael Samuel’s book Theatres of Memory (Verso, 1995), published in the Guardian 4 February 1995. For more recent thoughts on this argument see ‘Who do you think you are . . . ?’ under ‘Conversations’.

Cuzals – a visit to the Ecomuseum »

August 30th, 1992 | Posted in: Articles General, Heritage & History

On a new kind of French institution. Written for the Guardian in the summer of 1992. Previously unpublished.

Sneering at the Theme Parks »

May 1st, 1989 | Posted in: Articles General, Heritage & History

A conversation between Tim Putnam and Patrick Wright about the ‘Heritage Industry’, and the kind of critical discussion it might require. Published in Block, No.15, Spring 1989.

How the Red Telephone Box became Part of Britain’s National Heritage »

August 5th, 1988 | Posted in: Articles General, Articles in Books, Heritage & History

In the late 1980s, just before the triumph of mobile phone technology, a heated debate took place about privatization and its effect on Britain’s red telephone boxes. The first version of this argument was published as ‘On a ring and a prayer’, New Statesman and Society, 5 August 1988. A revised version was incorporated into A Journey Through Ruins (1991). It later underwent further slight modifications to appear as ‘How Privatization turned Britain’s Red Telephone Kiosk into an Archive of the Welfare State’ in Francis X Blouin Jr. and William G. Rosenberg (eds.), Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory: Essays from the Sawyer Seminar, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006, pp. 207-14.

Brideshead and the Tower Blocks »

June 2nd, 1988 | Posted in: Articles General, Heritage & History, Miscellaneous rigs of the time

A review of Witold Rybcyzinski’s book Home: A Short History of an Idea, which makes a wider argument about the rise of the English country house as a polemically-powered symbol of superior culture during the post-war period. I later incorporated much of this material into ‘Brideshead Relocated’, a chapter of A Journey Through Ruins (1991). Published in the London Review of Books, 2 June 1988.

Why the blight is stark enough »

August 1st, 1987 | Posted in: Articles General, Heritage & History

On the National Trust and its management, or otherwise, of Sutton House in Hackney. This article was written as part of a local campaign to shame the National Trust into taking better care of a property that is not actually in the ‘East End’ of London, although we placed it there for rhetorical effect. The Trust responded briskly under its Chairman Dame Jennifer Jenkins, and was soon displaying a lavishly restored Sutton House as proof of what could be done with inner city properties. Having employed my analysis of the post-war rise of the country house to this practical purpose within the conservation movement, I would be irritated when it was later suggested that the critique of country house ‘heritage’ was sourced in misogynist contempt for flowery decor and lavendar bags (see my rather bad-tempered review of Raphael Samuel’s Theatres of Memory, also available in this strand). Published in the Guardian, 1 August 1987, p. 17. Thanks to Richard Gott for the title.