Enlightenment Travel and British Identities

Enlightenment Travel and British Identities

Thomas Pennant's Tours of Scotland and Wales

Edited by Mary-Ann Constantine & Nigel Leask

‘Enlightenment Travel and British Identities’ is the first-ever collection of essays devoted to the influential eighteenth-century travel-writer, antiquarian and naturalist, Thomas Pennant (1726–1798). Offering a truly multidisciplinary range of perspectives, it explores the complex networks of informants who helped Pennant undertake and write-up the journeys behind his widely-read Welsh and Scottish ‘Tours’.

Hardback, 286 Pages


April 2017

£70.00, $115.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
  • Links
  • Podcasts

About This Book

Thomas Pennant of Downing, Flintshire (1726–1798), naturalist, antiquarian and self-styled ‘Curious Traveller’, published accounts of his pioneering travels in Scotland and Wales to wide acclaim between 1769 and 1784, directly inspiring Dr Johnson, James Boswell and hundreds of subsequent tourists. A keen observer and cataloguer of plants, birds, minerals and animals, Pennant corresponded with a trans-continental network of natural scientists (Linnaeus, Simon Pallas, Joseph Banks, Gilbert White), and was similarly well-connected with leading British antiquarians (William Borlase, Francis Grose, Richard Gough). Frequently cited as witness or authority across a wide range of disciplines, Pennant’s texts have seldom been themselves the focus of critical attention. There is as yet no biography of Pennant, nor any edition of his prolific correspondence with many of the leading minds of the European Enlightenment.

The ‘Tours’ were widely read and much imitated. As annotated copies reveal, readers were far from passive in their responses to the text, and ‘local knowledge’ would occasionally be summoned to challenge or correct them. But Pennant indisputably helped bring about a richer, more complex understanding of the multiple histories and cultures of Britain at a time when ‘Britishness’ was itself a fragile and developing concept. Because the ‘Tours’ drew on a vast network of informants (often incorporating material wholesale), they are, as texts, fascinatingly multi-voiced: many of the period’s political tensions run through them.

This volume of eleven essays seeks to address the comparative neglect of Pennant’s travel writing by bringing together researchers from literary criticism, art history, Celtic studies, archaeology and natural history. Attentive to the visual as well as textual aspects of his topographical enquiries, it demonstrates how much there is to be said about the cross-currents (some pulling in quite contrary directions) in Pennant’s work. In so doing they rehabilitate a neglected aspect of the Enlightenment in relation to questions of British identity, offering a new assessment of an important chapter in the development of domestic travel writing.


The essays in this collection reflect and bring to life the variety of topics to be found in Pennant's 'Tours', and his treatment of them. Appropriately, given that visual depiction as well as written description was very important to Pennant, this volume is well illustrated in relevant chapters, with reproductions from the 'Tours' and other contemporary images.
—Edward Cole, 'Journal of Historical Geography' 60 (2018) 100–113.

With contributions from scholars working in the fields of literature, history, archeology, art history, and history of science, the collection makes a strong case for Pennant’s importance to late eighteenth- century Britain in a variety of areas.
—Katherine Hedane Grenier, The Citadel, Eighteenth-Century Scotland (the annual newsletter of ECSSS)

‘Enlightenment Travel and British Identities shows why Thomas Pennant was more than a “curious traveller”, revealing his literary, scientific and antiquarian concerns. Enriching our understanding of Pennant’s Scottish and Welsh tours and how travel made truth, these engaging essays illuminate the making of historical identities in an age of intellectual reform.’
—Charles W. J. Withers, Ogilvie Chair of Geography, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, UK

‘This important and thought-provoking volume persuasively argues the case for a multidisciplinary approach to Pennant. Together the essays offer a fresh and subtly nuanced reading of the writings of this influential traveller and his significant contribution to home tour narratives of regional and national identity in the late eighteenth century.’
—Zoe Kinsley, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, Department of English, Liverpool Hope University, UK

‘Weaving together science, history, antiquarianism and art, this stimulating collection of essays amply demonstrates Thomas Pennant’s centrality to a broad range of British Enlightenment debates and discourses, especially those relating to Britain’s so-called “Celtic Fringe”. At the same time, it underscores the epistemological importance of travel and travel writing in the late eighteenth century.’
—Carl Thompson, Senior Lecturer in English, St Mary’s University, UK

‘No one did more to map the British cultural imaginary of Scotland and Wales than Thomas Pennant, and this landmark collection details the magnitude of his wide-ranging achievement. Enlightenment Travel will be indispensable for anyone interested in Pennant or the rise of domestic tourism as shaping forces of cultural historiography, scientific enquiry and national identity.’
—Benjamin Colbert, Reader in English Literature, Faculty of Arts, University of Wolverhampton, UK

Author Information

Mary-Ann Constantine is Reader at the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, and a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. The author of The Truth against the World: Iolo Morganwg and Romantic Forgery (2007), Constantine has written widely on the Romantic period in Wales and Brittany.

Nigel Leask is Regius Chair in English Language and Literature at the University of Glasgow as well as a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is the author of Robert Burns and Pastoral: Poetry and Improvement in Late Eighteenth-Century Scotland (2010), which won the Saltire Prize for best research monograph in 2010.


No series for this title.

Table of Contents

List of Figures; List of Contributors; Preface; Acknowledgements; List of Abbreviations; Introduction: Thomas Pennant, Curious Traveller, Mary- Ann Constantine and Nigel Leask; Chapter 1. ‘A Round Jump from Ornithology to Antiquity’: The Development of Thomas Pennant’s Tours, R. Paul Evans; Part I. History, Antiquities, Literature; Chapter 2. Thomas Pennant: Some Working Practices of an Archaeological Travel Writer in Late Eighteenth- Century Britain, C. Stephen Briggs; Chapter 3. Heart of Darkness: Thomas Pennant and Roman Britain, Mary- Ann Constantine; Chapter 4. Constructing Identities in the Eighteenth Century: Thomas Pennant and the Early Medieval Sculpture of Scotland and England, Jane Hawkes; Chapter 5. Shaping a Heroic Life: Thomas Pennant on Owen Glyndwr, Dafydd Johnston; Chapter 6. ‘The First Antiquary of His Country’: Robert Riddell’s Extra- Illustrated and Annotated Volumes of Thomas Pennant’s Tours in Scotland, Ailsa Hutton and Nigel Leask; Chapter 7. ‘A Galaxy of the Blended Lights’: The Reception of Thomas Pennant, Elizabeth Edwards; Part II. Natural History and the Arts; Chapter 8. ‘As If Created by Fusion of Matter after Some Intense Heat’: Pioneering Geological Observations in Thomas Pennant’s Tours of Scotland, Tom Furniss; Chapter 9. Geological Landscape as Antiquarian Ruin: Banks, Pennant and the Isle of Staffa, Allison Ksiazkiewicz; Chapter 10. Pennant, Hunter, Stubbs and the Pursuit of Nature, Helen McCormack; Chapter 11. Pennant’s Legacy: The Popularization of Natural History in Nineteenth- Century Wales through Botanical Touring and Observation; Caroline R. Kerkham; Short Bibliography of Thomas Pennant’s Tours in Scotland and Wales; Index.


No Podcasts for this title.
Comodo SSL