(HIST014) The Victorian Countryside

Tree in rolling hills landscape


Course start date: To be confirmed
Course end date: To be confirmed
Price £150:

Tutor:  Lynne Thompson
Course Code: HIST014
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: 5 – 8 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**:

  • Horn, P (1984) The changing countryside in Victorian and Edwardian England, London: Athlone (very readable)
  • Mingay, GE (2000 edn.) The Victorian Countryside, London: Routledge.

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.


On this course you will explore life in the Victorian countryside, from idealised scenes at cottage doorways, to poverty and harsh working conditions at a time of agricultural upheaval.

The course is informed by the work of historians and geographers, but also draws upon literature and art history. We will consider contemporary sources that have influenced our knowledge and perceptions such as paintings, novels, as well as the more objective records of local and national government.

You will learn about:

  • the experiences of Victorian communities
  • the role of the church
  • the nature of agricultural change
  • the rural economy and structure of land tenure
  • social reform
  • trends in the rural population
  • and cultural representations of the countryside in literature and art

Syllabus Plan

Week 1: The History and Heritage of the Victorian Countryside: Some Problems and Perspectives
Week 2: Communities: Contrasting Experiences
Week 3: The Economy: The Nature of Agricultural and Agrarian Change
Week 4: Power and Protest: Landlord, Tenant and Class Relationships
Week 5: Squires and Administrators: Who ran the Victorian Countryside?
Week 6: The ‘Flight from the Land’? Trends in the Rural Population
Week 7: Rural Poverty and Social Reform
Week 8: The Role of Church and Chapel in Rural Society
Week 9: The Impact of Travel, Leisure and Tourism on the Victorian Countryside
Week 10: Images of Rural Life: The Countryside in Victorian Art
Week 11: Romanticism, Realism and Rurality in Victorian Writing
Week 12: The Country House, Architecture and the Rural Landscape: Some Conclusions

Learning Outcomes

This course will help students to acquire:

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