The Centre for Victorian Studies

Annual lecture

Country Walks through Colonial Britain: A Labourer's Walk Through Dorset

  • 6 March 2024, 5.15pm-6.15pm, Lecture Theatre 1, Ken Edwards Building, University of Leicester
  • Speaker: Corine Fowler
  • Book your place here

What does the British countryside have to do with colonialism? This talk explores the slavery landscapes of inland Dorset, illustrating how profits from West Indian sugar plantations altered the local countryside, from which local people were sent to work on plantations as indentured labourers before being gradually replaced by enslaved labour. This is only one dimension of Dorset’s colonial stories. The county remains a popular tourist attraction for those who wish to commemorate the region’s celebrated story of unionisation by agricultural labourers in the 1830s. The Tolpuddle Six were convicted of swearing a secret oath when they formed a local union to combat low wages and poor working conditions. The convicted men were sent to penal colonies in Tasmania and Australia before public protests back in Britain led to them being granted a pardon, returning to Britain as feted heroes. Life in the penal colonies had been harsh, however, and the most prominent of the Tolpuddle Six, George Loveless, criticised British colonial practices, including the treatment of Aborigines. The colonial stories of these icons of British Unionisation did not stop there, however, and the talk ends by outlining the men’s relationship to the history of British colonial governance.  

Speaker biography

Corinne Fowler is Professor of Colonialism and Heritage in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. She is co-investigator of the Leverhulme Rural Racism Project, led by Professor Neil Chakraborti at the University’s Centre for Hate Studies. In 2020 Corinne co-authored an audit of peer-reviewed research about National Trust properties’ connections to empire, which encouraged the heritage sector to address its colonial stories and became a major media story. The report won the Museums and Heritage Special Recognition Award, 2022 and the Eastern Eye Community Engagement Award 2023. Corinne directed Colonial Countryside: National Trust Houses Reinterpreted, a child-led history and writing project with Peepal Tree Press with commissioned photographer Ingrid Pollard (2018-2022). Her most recent book is Green Unpleasant Land: Creative Responses to Rural England’s Colonial Connections (2020, Peepal Tree Press) and her next book is Our Island Stories: Country Walks Through Colonial Britain (Penguin Allen Lane and Scribner: 2 May, 2024).

About the event

This Annual Public Lecture is hosted by the Centre for Victorian Studies - the oldest specialist centre for the study of Victorian literature and culture in the UK. 

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