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Rural racism in Britain’s ‘Green Unpleasant Land’

Written by Amit Roy for Eastern Eye on Thursday, April 1, 2021

Corinne Fowler is a professor of postcolonial literature at Leicester University. Her new book, Green Unpleasant Land, subverts the fa­mous line – “In England’s green & pleasant Land” – from Jerusalem, the William Blake poem set to mu­sic by Hubert Parry and orchestra­tion written by Edward Elgar.

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It seems unlikely that her detractors have actually read Green Unpleasant Land, which is an evidence-based and scholarly history of rural Britain and its links to the outside world.

[...]

She shows how country houses and their gardens – stone pineapples in them re­minded owners of estates in the Caribbean – were financed either by the slave trade or fortunes made in India through the East India Company.

“One chapter adds the awareness that Britain’s black and Asian population has been disproportionately excluded from garden-based pleasures”, though it has to be said that the Royal Horticulture Society has informed Eastern Eye of its decision to become more diverse.

Readers will learn: “A common item in country houses was 18th century mahoga­ny – including much Chippendale furni­ture – which was invariably felled by en­slaved Africans in Jamaica, and Central and South America.”

Also, “tiger hunting – always popular with Indian rulers – escalated under the British Raj and there is a direct link be­tween colonialism and the decimation of tiger populations. By the 1930s, the Van In­gen taxidermy firms were processing 400 big cat skins a year.”

Fowler’s critics will not like her observa­tion that during British rule, it was India that lost so much wealth.

Read the original review here

This is a review of Green Unpleasant Land

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