Corinne Fowler

Our Island Stories

Our Island Stories

Country Walks through Colonial Britain


The countryside is almost sacred to many Britons. There is a depth of feeling about rural places, the moors and lochs, valleys and mountains, cottages and country houses. Yet the British countryside, so integral to our national identity, is rarely seen as having anything to do with British colonialism. In Our Island Stories, historian Corinne Fowler brings rural life and colonial rule together, with transformative results. Through ten country walks with varied companions, Fowler combines local and global history, connecting the Cotswolds to Calcutta, Dolgellau to Virginia, and Grasmere to Canton.

Empire transformed rural lives: whether in Welsh sheep farms or Cornish copper mines, it offered both opportunity and exploitation. Fowler shows how the booming profits of overseas colonial activities directly contributed to enclosure, land clearances and dispossession. These histories, usually considered separately, continue to link the lives of their descendants now.

To give an honest account, to offer both affection and criticism, is a matter of respect: we should not knowingly tell half a history. This new knowledge of our island stories, once gained, can only deepen Britons' relationship with their beloved landscape.