Some Early Ideas on the Agricultural Regions of England
Darby, H. C.
Agricultural History Review, Volume 2 (1954)
One of the features of English literature in the modern period–from about 15oo onwards–has been the development of a strong tradition of topographical writing. John Leland’s Itinerary, compiled in the first half of the sixteenth century, consisted only of notes for a proposed “Description of the Realm of England” which never appeared. But before the end of the century, William Camden’s Britannia provided such a description, and numerous revisions and reprints testify to the need it satisfied. There were many other topographical writings in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Some were the reports of travellers like Celia Fiennes, Daniel Defoe, and William Gilpin. Others professed to give a synoptic view of the face of the realm, and were called by such titles as England described (I659), The new State of England (1691), and England displayed (1769); there were a lot of them, and some ran into many editions. Parallel with these general works were those that described particular counties. Some dealt largely with antiquities, like William Dugdale’s account of Warwickshire (I656), others with natural history, like John Morton’s Northamptonshire (1712); yet others simply called themselves “descriptions” or “surveys” or “views.”