Northampton Electronic Collection of Theses and Research

Making the town: William West's walking tours

Stobart, J. (2009) Making the town: William West's walking tours. Paper presented to: Social History Society Annual Conference, University of Warwick, England, 3-5 April 2009. (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Abstract: Guidebooks have long been used as a way of directing the visitor through the town. Some, like John Gay’s Trivia, formed a general introduction to the social mores of street life. Others offered detailed itineraries for tours through the town, directing the walker along the improved streets of the town and calling at the most important locations including civic and ecclesiastical buildings, leisure facilities, charitable institutions and increasingly shops. As both practical guides and a form of armchair tourism, these books were important in constructing and broadcasting the image of the town as sites of modern consumption, be it of culture, leisure or material goods. It is perhaps surprising then that they have received relatively little attention: the gaze of historians falling instead on the more serious town histories or guidebooks for tourist destinations such as the Lake District (Sweet, 1997; Whyte, 2000). In this paper, I want to explore the tours and itineraries offered in William West’s History, Topography and Directory of Warwickshire (1830). As the title suggests, this volume was a hybrid, drawing on the topographical tradition of Leland, Camden and others, yet presenting current commercial and tourist information. Within his suggested itinerary through the county, detailed walking tours of Warwick, Leamington Spa and Birmingham stand out, and form the focus of my paper. In it, I contrast the treatment of the three towns, arguing that this was not merely a reflection of their different economic and physical structure; it was also a product of West's conscious construction of them as, respectively, places of history, leisure and commerce. Yet these were not crude stereotypes, but subtle re-presentations of the towns which sought to celebrate and position them within the imagination of the reader.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Warwickshire; topography; identity; image
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain > DA670 Local history and description > DA670.W3 Warwickshire
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5428 Retail trade
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain > DA600 Description and travel. Guidebooks
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions > HC94 By region or country > HC257 Great Britain > HC260.C6 Consumerism
Creators: Stobart, Jon
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > School of Social Sciences (to 2016)
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Education & Humanities > History
Faculties > Faculty of Education & Humanities > History
Date: 4 April 2009
Date Type: Presentation
Event Title: Social History Society Annual Conference
Event Dates: 3-5 April 2009
Event Location: University of Warwick, England
Event Type: Conference
Language: English
Status: Unpublished
Refereed: No

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