Through the Whole Island: Excursions in Great Britain

How do we form our ideas about the countries in which we live? Even in the age of car and train, personal observation only carries us so far: we rely as well on reports from those who have travelled more widely, purposefully and inquisitively than we have ourselves.


Queen Anne surveys her newly unified kingdom from the cartouche of this map published between 1708 and 1711. Atlas.1.71.1, map 7

This exhibition illustrates how the people of Great Britain, together with visitors from overseas, have explored England, Scotland and Wales, and described, explained, praised and criticized what they found. Over many centuries, printed accounts of journeys undertaken for scientific, scholarly or political enquiry, or simply for pleasure, were instrumental in building public perceptions of the landscapes, commerce and social character of this island. Private diaries allowed travellers to record and reflect on their experiences, maps and guidebooks have given directions, while poems and fictions based on travels have brought the British countryside and towns to imaginative life.