Country houses and the British Empire, 1700–1930

The 'Indian Room' label from Osterley's bell-pull system illustrates the economic and cultural aspects of the relationship between country houses and the British Empire. This book is a study of that relationship, of the ways in which country houses like Osterley served as venues for the expression of personal and national imperial engagement between 1700 and 1930. A rare scholarly analysis of the history of country houses that goes beyond an architectural or biographical study, and recognises their importance as the physical embodiments of imperial wealth and reflectors of imperial cultural influences, is presented. The book assesses the economic and cultural links between country houses and the Empire. In terms of imperial values, country houses expressed both the economic and cultural impact of empire. Carr and Gladstone were only two of the many examples of colonial merchants who turned landed magnates. Nabobs - men who made their fortunes either as employees of the East India Company or as 'free traders' in India - were willing to risk their lives in pursuit of wealth. Like nabobs, planters went to the colonies in search of wealth and were prepared to spend substantial time there in order to accumulate it. Military and naval were among categories of people who purchased landed estates with imperial wealth. The book identifies four discourses of empire - commodities, cosmopolitanism, conquest and collecting - that provided the basic categories in which empire was represented in country-house context.

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