This autumn sees the launch of the new MA Garden and Landscape History at the Institute of Historical Research. We asked course tutor Barbara Simms to share with us her thoughts about the relevance of garden and landscape history and to suggest why you might wish to undertake this MA. 


By Barbara Simms

2013 saw a year-long celebration of the 400th birthday of André le Nôtre, gardener of King Louis XIV, who designed the gardens of Versailles and over thirty parks in France. Similarly, in 2016, there will be a programme of events to celebrate the birth 300 years ago of the great landscape designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who changed the face of eighteenth-century England, designing country estates and mansions, moving hills and making flowing lakes and serpentine rivers. The works of these two renowned men, encompassing the formal geometric garden on the one hand and those imitating nature on the other, were not just the result of their innovative design concepts but were influenced by the art, architecture, literature, politics and the society in which they lived.

Garden and landscape history is a fascinating and multidisciplinary subject and  researching the history of a garden or landscape of any period is an absorbing and exciting activity that draws together documentation, maps, paintings, horticulture and other information to tell the story of the garden’s development and the people involved in its creation. Researching and recording historic parks and gardens can also have a practical application as it highlights their value and the contribution they make to the landscape. It can help to protect them and assist with restoration or conservation.

The MA in Garden and Landscape History will look at garden-making over time and in different countries, from the 16th century to the present day in Britain, Europe and America. The emphasis is on design, management and ownership. Students will learn how to acquire knowledge from a range of sources and to develop an appreciation of the study of garden history as a cultural discipline. There will be practical sessions at museums and libraries, as well as visits to gardens in London and an optional field trip to Italy.

For more information about the Garden and Landscape History MA and for details on how to apply see the IHR website course page.