Wilfrid Prest reviews 'The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity, and Memory in Early Modern Britain and Ireland' by Alexandra Walsham

The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity, and Memory in Early Modern Britain and Ireland

by Alexandra Walsham

Oxford University Press, $65 hb, 653 pp, 9780199243556

Australian universities have long taught early modern (c.1500–1750) English/British and European history, but with Alexandra Walsham’s recent appointment as the first female to occupy a Cambridge history chair, there are now (with Oxford’s Lyndal Roper) two Melbourne-trained early modernist Oxbridge professors. Banalities about the empire striking back are hard to resist. True, Walsham was born in Cornwall. But she emigrated to Australia as a child, and only returned to England on a postgraduate scholarship in 1990 after completing a Melbourne MA (published as Church Papists: Catholicism, Conformity and Confessional Polemic in Early Modern England, 1993) under my own teacher, Don Kennedy. Her multiple prize-winning Providence in Early Modern England (1999) grew out of a Cambridge PhD dissertation supervised by the now late and sadly lamented Patrick Collinson, whose engaging autobiographical History of a History Man (2011) includes a chapter on his own academic sojourn at Sydney from 1969 to 1976.

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Wilfrid Prest

Wilfrid Prest

Wilfrid Prest, born and educated in Melbourne, is Professor Emeritus in History and Law at the University of Adelaide and was president of the History Council of South Australia. He is the author of William Blackstone: Law and Letters in the Eighteenth Century (2008). His edited book Pasts Present: History at Australia’s Third University was published in 2014 by Wakefield Press.

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