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Module HSH-3041:
Country House Life

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Lowri Ann Rees

Overall aims and purpose

This module examines the rise and fall of the British country house from 1750 to the outbreak of the First World War. The country house was a symbol of wealth, power and status, but it was also a family home, as well as a site of employment. By examining a range of primary sources, from official records to personal accounts, documentary evidence to visual representations, the module allows insights into the lives of the people who lived and worked within the country house and on the wider landed estate. Whilst the module takes in a broader, British view of the country house, the national perspectives of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales will also be considered. The module will analyse the role of the landed interest on their estates, as country house builders, landlords and estate improvers, within the local community, as paternalistic figures and moral guardians, and nationally, as political representatives in parliament. By observing a broad chronology, the module views the Indian summer and subsequent decline of the British country house.

Course content

Topics explored over the course of the module may include, but will not be limited to: the architecture of the country house; landscaping, gardens and parks; social mobility; the role of elite women; the country house childhood; servants; estate management; public and political duties; philanthropy and charity; religious and moral values; leisure and recreation; the decline of the country house; the country house in popular culture; heritage, tourism and the country house.

Assessment Criteria


Threshold students (D- and D) will have done only a minimum of reading, and their work will often be based partly on lecture notes and/or basic textbooks. They will demonstrate in their written assessments some knowledge of at least parts of the relevant field, and will make at least partially-successful attempts to frame an argument which engages with historical controversies, but they will fail to discuss some large and vital aspects of a topic; and/or deploy only some relevant material but partly fail to combine it into a coherent whole; and/or deploy some evidence to support individual points but often fail to do so and/or show difficulty weighing evidence (thereby relying on unsuitable or irrelevant evidence when making a point). Alternatively or additionally, the presentation of the work might also be poor, with bad grammar and/or punctuation, careless typos and spelling errors, and a lack of effective and correct referencing.


Excellent students (A- and above) will show strong achievement across all the criteria combined with particularly impressive depths of knowledge and/or subtlety of analysis. In written work, they will support their arguments with a wealth of relevant detail/examples. They will also demonstrate an acute awareness of the relevant historiography and give an account of why the conclusions reached are important within a particular historical debate. They may show a particularly subtle approach to possible objections, nuancing their argument in the light of counter-examples, or producing an interesting synthesis of various contrasting positions.


Good students (B- to B+) will demonstrate a solid level of achievement and depth of knowledge in all the criteria in the C- to C+ range, and will in addition exhibit constructive engagement with different types of historical writing and historiographical interpretation. Ideas will be communicated effectively and written work will include a good range of sources/reading and demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues and of the existing interpretations expressed in a well-structured, relevant, and focused argument. Students at the top end of this band will engage with and critique the ideas that they come across, and synthesise the various interpretations they find to reach their own considered conclusions. Written work will be correctly presented with references and bibliography where appropriate.

C- to C+

Students in this band (C- to C+) will demonstrate a satisfactory range of achievement or depth of knowledge of most parts of the module, and will make successful, if occasionally inconsistent, attempts to develop those skills appropriate to the study of History at undergraduate level. In the case of the written assessments, the answers will attempt to focus on the question, although might drift into narrative, and will show some evidence of solid reading and research. The argument might lose direction and might not be adequately clear at the bottom of this category. Written work will be presented reasonably well with only limited errors in grammar, punctuation, and referencing, and not to the extent that they obscure meaning.

Learning outcomes

  1. Judge between competing interpretations of the British country house and its context, and the current state of the historiography

  2. Demonstrate a close familiarity with primary sources concerning the British country house from 1750 to 1914, and the ability to analyse these sources and use them in historical arguments

  3. Analyse individual pieces of historical evidence closely i.e. setting them in context, judging their qualities as evidence, and explaining their significance

  4. Present clear, evidence-based, and cogent historical arguments

  5. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the British country house from 1750 to 1914.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight

2-hour exam – section A primary source analysis; section B essay-based question on aspect of the topic, reflecting on primary sources


3,000 word essay on an aspect of the topic, reflecting on primary sources


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Lectures will provide an introductory overview to a broad theme or topic.


Three 1-hour timetabled drop-in tutorials


2-hour weekly seminars

Private study

Students must dedicate time to private study whilst enrolled on this module, to build on knowledge gleaned in class, and work on their assignments.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • problem solving to develop solutions to understand the past
  • understanding the complexity of change over time; in specific contexts and chronologies
  • being sensitive to the differences, or the "otherness" of the past, and the difficulty to using it as a guide to present or future action
  • being sensitive to the role of perceptions of the past in contemporary cultures
  • producing logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence
  • planning, designing, executing and documenting a programme of research, working independently
  • marshalling and critically appraising other people's arguments, including listening and questioning
  • making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
  • making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
  • appreciating and being sensitive to different cultures and dealing with unfamiliar situations
  • critical evaluation of one's own and others' opinions


Talis Reading list

Reading list

L. Baker-Jones, Princelings, Privilege and Power: the Tivyside Gentry in their Community (1999) J. V. Beckett, The Aristocracy in England, 1660-1914 (1988) D. Cannadine, The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy (1990) M. Cragoe, An Anglican Aristocracy: the Moral Economy of the Landed Estate in Carmarthenshire, 1832-1895 (1996) T. Dooley and C. Ridgway (eds), The Irish Country House: Its Past, Present and Future (2011) D. Eastwood, Governing Rural England: Tradition and Transformation in Local Government, 1780-1840 (1994) M. Girouard, Life in the English Country House: A Social and Architectural History (1978) —, The Victorian Country House (1979) —, A Country House Companion (1987) J. Habakkuk, Marriage, Debt and the Estates System: English Landownership 1650-1950 (1994) N. B. Harte and R. Quinault (eds.), Land and Society in Britain, 1700-1914 (1996) B. A. Holderness and M. Turner (eds.), Land, Labour and Agriculture, 1700-1920 (1990) P. Horn, The Rural World 1780-1850 (1984) D. W. Howell, Patriarchs and Parasites: the Gentry of South-West Wales in the Eighteenth Century (1986) —, Land and People in Nineteenth Century Wales (1978) A. Howkins, Reshaping Rural England (1991) G. Jackson-Stops and J. Pipkin, The English Country House: A Grand Tour (1984) F. C. Jaher (ed.), The Rich, the Well Born and the Powerful: Elites and Upper Classes in History (1973) B. Ll. James, ‘The "Great Landowners" of Wales’, National Library of Wales Journal (1965) P. Lane, The Upper Class (1972) D. R. Mills, Lord and Peasant in Nineteenth Century Britain (1980) G. E. Mingay, The Gentry: the Rise and Fall of a Ruling Class (1976) —, Rural Life in Victorian England (1976) —, The Victorian Countryside, 2 vols. (1981) — (ed.), The Agrarian History of England and Wales, vol. vi 1750-1850 (1989) B. Phillips, Peterwell: the History of a Mansion and its infamous squire (1983) R. Phillips, Tredegar: the history of an agricultural estate 1300-1956 (1990) T. W. Pritchard, The Wynns at Wynnstay (1982). L. A. Rees, C. Reilly and A. Tindley, The Land Agent, 1700-1920 (2018) A. Roberts, Wynnstay and the Wynns: A Volume of Varieties, reprinted from the second edition of 1885, facsimile edition (1998) W. D. Rubinstein, Elites and the Wealthy in Modern British History: Essays in Social and Economic History (1987) D. Spring, The English Landed Estate in the Nineteenth Century (1963) C. Thomas, ‘Estates and the rural economy of north Wales 1770-1850’, Bulletin Board of Celtic Studies (1979) F. M. L. Thompson, English Landed Society in the Nineteenth Century (1963) —, Gentrification and the Enterprise Culture in Britain 1780-1980 (2003) H. M. Vaughan, The South Wales Squires: A Welsh Picture of Social Life (1926) J. Vince, The Country House: How It Worked (1991) E. Whittle, The Historic Gardens of Wales (1992) R. Wilson and A. Mackley, Creating Paradise: The Building of the English Country House, 1660-1880 (2000) J. R. Wordie, Agriculture and Politics in England, 1815-1939 (2000) M. Yass, The English Aristocracy (1974)

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: