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Courses and core reading material

There are now centres and specialist courses for the study of country houses. The specific geographical spread of these courses probably exists as a result of the suitability of accessible houses in the locality, and in all cases there is always a house used extensively for study purposes.

Selected universities/institutions that include modular based study of the country house as part of their History of Art, Museums Studies or History.

Nottingham Trent University

NUI Maynooth

University of Buckingham

University of Derby

University of Exeter

University of Leeds

University of Warwick

University of Wolverhampton

It is also worth checking the following for other forms of study which usually link their modular courses with summer schools and continuing education.

The Rich Man in his Castle: the Victorian Country House – citylit: Centre for Adult Learning, London (April 2014)

Culture of The English Country House – University of Oxford, Department for Continuing Education

Stately Homes and Country Gardens – Oxford Royale Academy

Country House Study Week – University of Buckingham

Summer Study – Durham University Study Week

Certificate

Architecture: the English country house – University of Warwick

Certificate in Country House Studies – University of Hull

Masters Degree

Centre for the Study of the Country House – University of Leicester (part of the Department of the History of Art and Film). There are two MA courses – The Country House in Art, History and Literature (based on campus) and The Country House (by distance learning).

Masters level modules

British Country House – (the Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies) University of York. At Close Quarters: The English Country House and its Collections – Sainsbury Institute for Art at the University of East Anglia (in association with The Attingham Trust)

The courses themselves generally focus upon the English country house (with the exception of Maynooth) and its formation to houses in the media and houses as museums or heritage sites. Distinct modules will include the building of the country house, estate and household management, heritage management, houses as depositories of art collections, and some greater historical context such as politics, wealth and land management. At a higher level of study and specifically in research terms, gender, class and material culture/consumption have steadily established themselves as worthy subjects connected with the study of the country house with individual case studies proving that the country house was more than a decorative administrative base for a landed estate.

For anyone wanting to study the (mainly) English country house, these books are crucial reads. Many of these formed part of a key reading list when I was an undergraduate student of art history over ten years ago. When I started my research degree on women and the country house in 2003, those same key books were still being recommended to the student of the country house. I’ve updated the list for 2011 and included books which also cover something more of the social and economic history of the country house since these topics are integral to the subject in current teaching trends. This is by no means comprehensive, and places of study will recommend many more as part of their ‘core/preliminary’ reading lists.

For a full list of different types of courses and their locations in the UK see Matthew Beckett at http://thecountryseat.org.uk/the-study/

J. S. Ackerman. The Villa: Form and Ideology of Country Houses. Princeton University Press (1990).

Dana  Arnold. The Georgian Country House: Architecture Landscape and Society. Stroud (1998).

J. Beckett. The Aristocracy in England, 1660-1914. (1988).

C. Christie. The British Country House in the Eighteenth Century. Manchester (2000).

Olive Cook. The English Country House: an Art and a Way of Life. (1974).

J. Gaze. Figures in a Landscape. A History of the National Trust. London (1988).

Mark Girouard. Life in the English Country House: a Social and Architectural History. New Haven and London (1978).

Mark Girouard. Life in the French Country House. (2001).

C. Hardyment. Behind the Scenes: Domestic Arrangements in Historic Houses. (1997).

J. J. Hecht. The Domestic Servant Class in Eighteenth-Century England. London (1956).

Gervase Jackson-Stops. The English Country House in Perspective. New York (1990)

M. Sayer. The Disintergration of a Heritage: Country Houses and their Collections. Norwich (1993)

Lawrence Stone and Jeanne C. Fawtier Stone. An Open Elite?: England 1540-1880. (1995).

R. Strong. The Destruction of the Country House. London (1974).

John Summerson. Architecture in Britain, 1530-1830. Yale University Press (1993).

Amanda Vickery. Behind Closed Doors: at Home in Georgian England. (2010).

Richard Wilson and Alan Mackley. Creating Paradise: the Building of the Country House, 1660-1880. (2006).

Update November 2011: Warwick University have begun a project on the East India Company at Home which is a wide-ranging body of research into elite families, country houses and specific material culture connected with the East India Company in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The main aim of the project is to establish how goods from the east were traded or bought, displayed and cared for in the elite home with special focus on the country houses that were being built or rebuilt and modernised between 1757 and 1857. This is indeed a large time frame, however the website for the project contains some valuable material for the prospective student of the British country house including a comprehensive bibliography and detailed resources.

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