This book examines a hitherto neglected genre of literature, and provides an analysis of both eighteenth-century urban culture and local historical scholarship. Rosemary Sweet challenges the conventional view that by the eighteenth century antiquarian studies had stagnated and lost their vigour. On the contrary, positive advances were made in the field of local history and medieval scholarship. Dr Sweet shows how a sense of the past was crucial not only in
instilling civic pride and shaping a sense of community, but also in informing contests for power and influence in the local community. Urban histories, she argues, were not merely part of a homogenizing polite
culture, emanating out of London: they owe far more to local traditions, particularly those fostered by urban chronicles. They are proof of the continued strength of civic feeling and provincial loyalties in this period. With its comprehensive survey of the work of local historians, this study adds significantly to our knowledge of urban improvement and the ethos of local history, and will also provide an important insight into the nature of civil society in
...well researched, well written and sharply argued analysis ...stimulating and critical study...this is a book with a wide potential audience in a flourishing area of historical scholarship. - J M Ellis. British Journal for 18th C Studies. Vol 21 1998
`As urban histories, guide books and directories become ever more popular as sources for the study of English towns and urbanism in the eighteenth-century, Rosemary Sweet's fascinating study forms a useful overview of what are complex and intensely political texts. The chosen themes form a coherent whole, are sensitively explored, and are shown to have been powerful in shaping the purpose, style, and content of urban histories. What emerges most clearly
from this book, however, is that the motives of the authors and the histories themselves were very diverse.'
Jon Stobart, Albion
`by analysing the addresses of subscribers to urban histories, Sweet is able to quantify the surprisingly various degrees of local interest in local publications. Historians of provincial printing and publication will find this book exceptionally valuable ... Sweet's book is admirably respectful of its subject-matter, and presents a cogent argument for why the provinces, and their historians, should be proud of themselves.'
Alison Shell, Durham