The Great Tours: England, Scotland, and Wales
Dr. Patrick N. Allitt is Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University, where he has taught since 1988. The holder of a doctorate in history from the University of California, Berkeley, Professor Allitt-an Oxford University graduate-has also taught American religious history at Harvard Divinity School, where he was a Henry Luce Postdoctoral Fellow. He was the Director of Emory College's Center for Teaching and Curriculum from 2004 to 2009, where he looked for ways to improve teaching. In this critical administrative position, he led workshops on a wide variety of teaching-related problems, visited dozens of other professors' classes, and provided one-on-one consultation to teachers to help them overcome particular pedagogical problems. Professor Allitt was honored with Emory's Excellence in Teaching Award and in 2000 was appointed to the N.E.H./Arthur Blank Professorship of Teaching in the Humanities. A widely published and award-winning author, Professor Allitt has written several books, including The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities throughout American History; Catholic Intellectuals and Conservative Politics in America, 1950-1985; Catholic Converts: British and American Intellectuals Turn to Rome; and Religion in America since 1945: A History. He is also author of I'm the Teacher, You're the Student: A Semester in the University Classroom, a memoir about one semester in his life as a university professor. In addition, he is the editor of Major Problems in American Religious History. He has written numerous articles and reviews for academic and popular journals, including The New York Times Book Review.
01: Welcome to Britain
See why Great Britain offers so much as a travel destination. From thousand-year-old castles and cathedrals to contemporary art museums and scenic hikes, there is something for everyone. Begin your tour with a look at the scope of all Britain has to offer—and a few off-the-beaten-path ideas for getting to know England, Scotland, and Wales.
02: Prehistoric Britain
Great Britain’s history begins 5,000 years ago with a mysterious ancient people whose only vestiges are earthworks and stone circles like Stonehenge. Because of Stonehenge’s massive popularity, you may want to consider visiting other ancient ruins such as Avebury or Maiden Castle.
03: Roman Britain
The next era in Britain’s history is the Roman conquest. In the first century B.C.E., the Romans invaded and spread their territory to the Anglo-Scottish border. There, Hadrian’s Wall marks the edge of the empire. Consider the Roman impact on Great Britain, from the city of Bath to the island’s long, straight roads.
04: Anglo-Saxon and Viking Britain
After the Romans left Britain, a number of Germanic tribes stepped in to fill the power vacuum. With the help of the Venerable Bede and other contemporary sources, explore the Anglo-Saxon conquests. Then turn to the Viking attacks in the Middle Ages. Be sure to add Offa’s Dyke and the monastery of Lindisfarne to your travel itinerary.
05: Britain’s Medieval Castles
Medieval castles and cathedrals are some of the most striking sites in all of Britain. Here, survey the development of castles built between 1066 and 1500. As you reflect on the evolution of the stone keep and outer wall, concentric design, and more, your tour takes you to such crowd-pleasers as Tower of London, Caerphilly in Wales, Dover Castle, and more.
06: Britain’s Medieval Cathedrals
Like the medieval castles, Britain’s cathedrals are astounding sites and an absolute must for any visitor to the island. Here, Professor Allitt explores the major milestones in cathedral architecture, from the Romanesque style of Durham Cathedral to the gothic style of Canterbury. He also takes you to the world-renowned Westminster Abbey.
07: Tudor Britain
From the end of the Wars of the Roses in 1485 to the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, Britain experienced severe political upheavals. Among other events, Henry VIII broke from the Catholic Church to found the Church of England. Witness how the era’s architecture—including Hampton Court Palace, Hardwick Hall, and Sulgrave Manor—reflected the political turmoil.
08: Magna Carta and Civil War
Continue your study of the political shifts during Renaissance Britain, a period when kings were gradually forced to share power with Parliament. This tension broke bounds in the 17th century, when Charles I, defeated in a civil war, was beheaded at the Banqueting House in London. After Oliver Cromwell’s quasi-military dictatorship, the crown was restored to Charles II—but political tension persisted.
09: Enlightenment Britain
Some of the greatest sites in Britain today are products of the Enlightenment. Delve into some of Christopher Wren’s architectural achievements, including the Royal Observatory and the splendid St. Paul’s Cathedral. Then move beyond London to explore the great country estates of Kedleston and Calke Abbey.
10: Industrial Britain
Britain was home to the Industrial Revolution, driven by advancements in textiles, coal mining, and iron. Tour the country to see some of the monuments to industry, including Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire, Coalbrookdale in Shropshire, and the Big Pit in the South Wales village of Blaenafon. Visit and travel on the nation’s canals and railways from the same era.
11: Victorian Britain
Victorian Britain is a fascinating architectural period, which witnessed a revival of many older styles, culminating in the Neo-Gothic. Visit such masterpieces of the Gothic Revival as Manchester Town Hall, St. Pancras Station in London, and the Museum of Natural History. Then tour Kensington, where the Royal Albert Hall commemorates Victoria’s husband.
12: Twentieth-Century Britain
Conclude your survey of British architecture with an overview of the 20th century—a period when, according to Professor Allitt, some of the nation’s worst buildings were constructed. The early part of the century saw striking achievements, such as Arts and Crafts style country houses, but the post-World War II era was an age of Brutalist concrete, from which we are only just escaping today.
13: Edinburgh and Glasgow
Scottish nationalism is one of the more intriguing phenomena in today’s headlines. Here, look beyond the news reports to investigate Scotland’s two great cities: Edinburgh and Glasgow. While giving you a tour of the cities, Professor Allitt also introduces you to some of Scotland’s most famous figures, including Walter Scott, Adam Smith, and David Hume.
14: Wild Scotland: Beyond Edinburgh and Glasgow
Continue your tour of Scotland with a look beyond the cities. You’ll visit the Scottish Highlands, which is the least densely populated part of Europe, and explore the great history of this wild land. Your investigation takes you to the tragic and beautiful valley of Glencoe; the Spey Valley, a mecca for Scotch whiskey lovers; and the beautiful Scottish islands.
15: North Wales
Shift your attention to the other country within the nation. Beginning with Offa’s Dyke and touring a ring of castles—including the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Conwy Castle and Harlech—this tour of North Wales is an ideal introduction to the Welsh landscape, history, and heritage.
16: Cardiff and South Wales
Head south to the capital city of Cardiff, where impressive civic buildings and the National Museum of Wales await you. The architecture of this city is magnificent, and offers much to see, from the polychromatic fantasy rooms of Cardiff Castle to the dome over the National Museum. Then turn to the South Wales towns of Tredegar and Swansea, home of Dylan Thomas.
17: The North of England
England is a nation of regions, and the wild Pennine Hills in the north—Wuthering Heights country—is one of the must-see stops in your travels. Here, cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, and York were industrial dynamos in the 19th century—and the National Railway Museum in York is one of Professor Allitt’s top-rated destinations for visitors.
18: The English Midlands
You might be tempted to skip the English Midlands, but if you have the time in your itinerary, the region has much to offer. Home to Josiah Wedgwood’s pottery, quaint villages, and Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest, the Midlands have a fascinating heritage and offer an incomparable look into the British story.
19: East Anglia
Continue your survey of the great regions of England with a look East Anglia. A rural district that has inspired nature lovers and scientists for generations, East Anglia is also home to stately country houses such as Blickling and Houghton Hall and country towns like Norwich. This quiet region warrants at least a day’s visit.
20: England’s West Country
Look now to the dramatic landscape of the West Country. The sleepy villages of Somerset and Dorset give way to the colorful towns of Devonshire and Cornwall, which has become a magnet for visual artists. The hilltop island church of St. Michael’s Mount and the ancient fortress of Tintagel should not be missed.
21: The Museums of London
In this lecture, trade the calm of the country for the bustle of the city. Professor Allitt takes you to some of the world’s finest museums, including the British Museum, home to the controversial Elgin Marbles, once plundered from the Parthenon in Athens. You’ll also visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Gallery, and the Tate Modern.
22: London’s Streets and Parks
Learn how to navigate London by tube and foot. Go inside the underground stations and learn why the tube is the best way to get around the city. Above ground, discover the urban retreats of Regent’s Park and Hyde Park, and the shopping hub that is Regent Street. With so many museums, parks, and attractions, London has never been a more interesting and fun city to visit.
23: Buckingham Palace and Parliament
Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament are two of the most popular tourist destinations, and they embody the government of Great Britain. See why these buildings are such a draw, learn about their architecture and renovations over the years, and reflect on the nature of Britain’s constitutional monarchy.
24: Oxford and Cambridge
Step away from teeming London into the famous university towns of Oxford and Cambridge. Both house venerable academic institutions, each with its own distinct mood and atmosphere. Learn about some of the famous graduates from each university, and tour a sampling of their beautiful chapels, libraries, rivers, and gardens.
25: Literary Britain: Chaucer and Shakespeare
Great Britain is home to one of the world’s great literary traditions—and literature is a terrific way to frame your tour through the island. In this first of four literary lectures, reflect on the work of two of Britain’s most-prized poets, Chaucer and Shakespeare. Retrace the pilgrims’ path of The Canterbury Tales, visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre beside the River Thames, and more.
26: Literary Britain: The Romantics
Continue your literary journey through Britain. From the great Scottish writers Walter Scott and Robert Burns to Wordsworth’s evocative descriptions of the Lake District, the Romantic writers of the 18th and 19th centuries created an enduring mood and style that still resonate today. Also tour the quiet villages where Jane Austen worked and the Jurassic coast at Lyme Regis.
27: Literary Britain: Poets and Novelists
Shelley, Keats, and Byron are three of the world’s finest poets, and their work is steeped in the history and landscape of Britain. Reflect on the land that inspired their finest works, and then turn to the world of the Brontë sisters in the North and Charles Dickens in the South, whose novels evoke not only the land but also the people of the 19th century.
28: Literary Britain: The 20th Century
Round out your study of British literature with a survey of the 20th-century masters. Check out the Baker Street of Sherlock Holmes, visit the rural Dorset villages of Thomas Hardy, and then pop over to Bloomsbury in London to see where Virginia Woolf and her comrades created a new kind of literature.
29: Artistic Britain: Painters and Sculptors
Britain has a distinguished artistic tradition along with a set of museums that house many of the world’s greatest visual masterpieces. Examine the lives and works of some of the great painters and sculptors, including William Hogarth, Joseph Turner, Thomas Gainsborough, Henry Moore, and Barbara Hepworth.
30: Britain’s Estates and Gardens
Because of its mild and wet climate, Britain is well suited for flowers, and England has a proud history of gardening going back to the 1500s. In this visually rich lecture, tour some of the most stunning gardens in the nation today, including the Botanic Garden at Oxford University; Kew Gardens in London; and others, grand and obscure, throughout the provinces.
31: Legacy of the British Empire
From the 17th through the 20th century, Britain’s empire spanned the globe, giving this small island an outsized role on the world’s stage. But while Britain was making an impact in India, New Zealand, Canada, and elsewhere, these nations were having an impact on Britain. Explore the ethnic and cultural diversity in Britain today.
32: Seafaring Britain
Britain became a world power thanks to its domination of the seas in the 18th and 19th centuries. Visit the historic dockyard in Portsmouth, where you can see some of the ships that helped put Britain on the map. Then discover some of the less well-known but equally impressive ports and ships, plus some of Britain’s many coastal lighthouses.
33: Britain’s War Memorials
As a world power, Britain fought many wars—which it has commemorated in many ways. Among other memorials, this lecture takes you to Blenheim Place (commemorating the Duke of Marlborough’s defeat of a great French and Bavarian army in 1704) to Trafalgar Square in London (with its memorial to Horatio Nelson), to Hyde Park Corner (the best place to see war memorials in England), and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.
34: Hiking England, Scotland, and Wales
While you need a car, train, or boat to get a comprehensive tour of Britain, arguably the best way to explore the nation is by foot. England, Scotland, and Wales are home to some of the best hiking paths in Europe, from the Lake District that inspired the Romantic poets to the Southwest Coast Path to the demanding Pennine Way trail up the spine of northern England.
35: Britain’s Sporting Tradition
Soccer, cricket, tennis, golf: These sports were invented in Britain and play a major role in the nation’s culture today. Whether you are a rabid Man United nut or occasionally enjoy a match at Wimbledon, Britain has something for every sports fan—and the timing of sporting events may be something to consider when planning your great tour.
36: How to Think about Visiting Britain
Tourism is a good test of self-knowledge: Why do you want to travel in the first place? While Britain is an ideal place to travel, it behooves you to spend a few minutes reflecting on why you want to go there so that you plan the most meaningful trip. Professor Allitt ends with a few practical tips to help you get the most from your travels.