(HIST018) The Changing English Countryside

English countryside viewed over a gate


Late enrolments available for a limited time

Course start date: Monday 18th January 2021
Course end date: Friday 9th April 2021
Price £150:

Tutor:  Lynne Thompson
Course Code: HIST018
Level: Non-accredited, non-credit bearing
Assessments/Exams: None. Throughout the course you will be given ideas and questions to respond to in the online discussion area. Participation in online discussion is encouraged, but not compulsory.
Duration: 12 weeks
Estimated Student Study Time: 2 – 3 hours per week are recommended, but time spent is flexible and at your discretion.
Fee: £150.00
Pre-Requisites: No academic qualifications or experience of studying history, archaeology, art or literature are required – only a strong enthusiasm for this subject.
Delivery: Online Distance Learning
Late Entrants: If this course is not full by the start date then late entrants will be accepted for up to two weeks after the start of the course. As a late entrant you can choose to catch up on the material you have missed or you can skip the missed weeks and concentrate on the material at the point where you join the course, but unfortunately we cannot offer fee reductions or course extensions for late entrants.
Recommended Reading**:

A list of recommended reading is provided within the course.

Required Reading**: There are no required texts for this course.

**Please note: All courses are subject to sufficient numbers of students registering before they are confirmed as running. Therefore, after booking your place you are advised not to purchase any texts until you have received confirmation that the course is running.

This course was previously taught by Lynne Thompson when it was offered by the University of Exeter*. If you studied it with the University of Exeter* you might not wish to study it again with Learn for Pleasure as although we have revised and updated our courses where necessary, it will likely be substantively the same.


This course follows the complementary course The Victorian Countryside but also works equally well as a stand-alone course. A theme common to both courses is how and why historians and others have been attracted to write about a ‘way of life’ which is increasingly under threat.

This seems to be based very much on an English perception and so in this course we will examine how and why the English countryside changed as it did during the twentieth century, and what kinds of responses were forthcoming.

We will consider a number of key issues for study and discussion, notably:

  • rural decline and regeneration in the inter-war period
  • the impact of war on rural England and the ‘second agricultural revolution’
  • education and training for agriculture and the life of the labourer on the land
  • experiments in alternative rural living
  • the rise of rural planning
  • the creation of National Parks
  • shifting employment and leisure practices
  • emerging environmental concerns
  • and the social impact of counterurbanisation – could the countryside sustain the needs of those who move to ‘village England’ and to what extent was the ‘rural idyll’ in place?

Syllabus Plan

Unit 01 – Themes and Issues in the Historiography of Rural England

Unit 02 – The Countryside: Decline and Regeneration

Unit 03 – The Impact of the First World War on Rural England

Unit 04 – Education and Training for Agriculture

Unit 05 – Labourers and the Land

Unit 06 – Experiments in Alternative Rural Living

Unit 07 – Evacuation and the Home Front: The Countryside as Catalyst

Unit 08 – The Countryside and Farming: The Changing Place of Agriculture

Unit 09 – The Landscape: The Rise of Rural Planning

Unit 10 – Nature: Emerging Environmental Concerns

Unit 11 – Work and Leisure: Shifting Patterns and Practices

Unit 12 – Communities: New Settlers and a New Order

Learning Outcomes

This course will help students to acquire:

  • Knowledge of rural life and the development of the British countryside during the period 1900 – 1975;
  • An awareness of the underlying concepts and debates relating to this subject area;
  • Experience of analysing source material.