Walking, and Knowing the Past: Antiquaries, Pedestrianism and Historical Practice in Modern Britain

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Abstract

How do those who write history know the past? This article addresses this question by examining the work of late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century antiquaries, whose historical practice was closely tied to their embodied experience of the places about which they wrote. On-foot out-of-doors observation provided them with evidence as important as that which might be derived from written sources, while also acting to stimulate their historical imaginations. This was the method of the Rev. Richard Warner, who made a 469-mile ‘pedestrian tour’ of Wales in August 1797, and for whom walking (often more than 20 miles a day) was an essential element of his approach to understanding the past. Similarly, William Hutton’s History of the Roman Wall (1802) was not based on consultation of the accounts of others, or even on separate in-person site visits, but on a single journey, on foot, along the course of the fortification. As argued here, these and other pedestrianised forms of historical knowing had a lasting influence on the writing of history in Britain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-73
Number of pages23
JournalHISTORY
Volume107
Issue number374
Early online date14 Sept 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2022

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