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 powerhouse, 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.
2019-20 seminar programme
The provisional seminar schedule for 2018-19 can be found below.
Location for seminars: The Reform Club (104 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5EW), and the University of Buckingham’s London premises at 51 Gower Street (Bloomsbury, London, WC1E 6HJ).
See map and directions to the Reform Club.
- 1 October 2019 (51 Gower Street): Adrian Tinniswood, introductory session (no dinner)
- 15 October 2019 (Reform Club): Nicholas Kingsley, Researching the Country House
- 29 October 2019 (Reform Club): John Goodall, The Country House of the Long Middle Ages, 1484-1640
- 12 November 2019 (51 Gower Street): Mark Purcell, The Country House Library
- 26 November 2019 (Reform Club): Vaughan Hart, The Baroque Country House
- 7 January 2020 (51 Gower Street): Jeremy Musson, Robert Adam
- 21 January 2020 (Reform Club): Lisa White, Lighting and the Country House
- 4 Feb 2020 (Reform Club): Rosemary Hill, The Earl and the Architect: Pugin and Lord Shrewsbury
- 18 Feb 2020 (Reform Club): Wendy Hitchmough, The Arts and Crafts House
- 3 March 2020 (Reform Club): Simon Murray, The National Trust and the Country House
- 17 March 2020 (Gower Street): Adrian Tinniswood, The Guilt and the Gingerbread: The Country House in the 1950s and 1960s
Each guest speaker seminar begins at 18:30 and is followed by a dinner at 20:00 with the guest speaker. The cost of all post-seminar dinners is included in the tuition fees.
What Our Students Say
Matthew Beckett: ‘Having informally pursued knowledge in the subject, the MA in The English Country House: 1485-1945 offered the opportunity to provide a strong academic framework through high-quality seminars led by some of the foremost experts in their fields. In addition, the dissertation gave ample opportunity to explore a specific aspect of the subject within a supportive environment.
Perhaps, most critically for me, the course is deliberately structured to enable those unable to undertake a full-time course to still enjoy the benefits of MA study, with evening seminars and online and phone support. The students on the course come from varied backgrounds and span a wide range of ages and experiences but also, importantly, different interests in the country house, each bringing their own expertise and passion to enrich the seminars.
This course has provided not only intellectually satisfying teaching and discussion but also a chance to interact with recognised leaders in country house research, meet fellow enthusiasts, and profoundly develop my skills and knowledge as part of producing the dissertation.’
Patrick Newberry: ‘I was drawn to Buckingham by its great reputation both for scholarship and for innovation in its development of programmes. Since starting the Country House MA, I have found that my expectations were more than justified; indeed, they have been far exceeded. The design of the seminar programme is excellent. Prior to starting the course, I was reasonably well read in the subject matter, but the seminars have stretched my understanding and thinking to new levels. Led by some of the UK’s foremost architectural historians, including the Course Director, they have been outstanding. The range of knowledge and expertise delivered in the seminars, combined with interaction with a very talented and experienced group of fellow students at, and outside of, the seminars have been an incredible experience, leading me into significant new areas of thought and research, as well as providing a delightful social experience.
Having one of the country’s leading Country House historians as course leader has also been a tremendous benefit. Being able to work with somebody who has a deep and broad knowledge of the subject matter as well as being a published writer of high repute is an incredible advantage when working up plans for dissertations and embarking on a research programme. The Course Director’s practical counsel and advice and constant availability in the role of dissertation supervisor have provided a great combination of challenge and support in undertaking the significant challenge of a Master’s dissertation.
The quality of the programme has been so good that a number of us are exploring upgrading to a DPhil with the university, so as to be able to maximise the opportunity to pursue our chosen areas of research.’
The Course Director
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 Polite Tourist: Four Centuries of Country House Visiting, and the Sunday Times bestseller, The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House between the Wars. His most recent book, Behind the Throne: A Domestic History of the Royal Household, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2018.
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.
Full details in the Curriculum Handbook
For further details contact:
Humanities Research Admissions on +44 (0)1280 827514