Between 1900 and 1950 the British state amassed a huge collection of over 800 historic buildings, monuments, and sites and opened them to the public. This engaging book explains why the extraordinary collecting frenzy took place, locating it in the fragile and nostalgic atmosphere of the interwar years, dominated by neo-romanticism and cultural protectionism. The government's activities were mirrored by the establishment of dozens of voluntary bodies, including the Council for the Protection of Rural England, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and the National Trust. Men from the Ministry sets all this activity, for the first time, in its political, economic and cultural contexts, painting a picture of a country traumatized by war, fearful of losing what was left of its history, and a government that actively set out to protect them. It dissects a government program that established a modern state on deep historical and rural roots.
"State ownership makes conservation political and Thurley knows his cannot help but be a political book" Rosemary Hill, Sunday Telegraph.-- Rosemary Hill * Sunday Telegraph *
"In this absorbing book, the chief executive of English Heritage explores how, between 1900 and 1950, the British state amassed more than 800 buildings, monuments and historic sites and gave the public access to them. Thurley is a well-placed guide to the characters who enabled this collecting spree and to the challenges that they faced; he tells a vivid story of how the country successfully established a vast open-air museum" - Apollo Magazine, 1st July 2013* Apollo Magazine *
Simon Thurley is the Chief Executive of English Heritage. He was formerly the Director of the Museum of London, and the Curator of Historic Royal Palaces.