In this most interesting book Jan Marsh examines the paradox underlying the transformation of England from an economy based on agriculture to one based on industry. By 1880 that had happened irreversibly and yet while the rural population was rapidly declining, the back-to-the land movement began to pervade all areas of life and thought. Jan Marsh chronicles the many manifestations of the pastoral impulse. From simple nostalgia to sophisticated political thought she looks at agrarian communes, the folk-song movement, peasant arts, garden cities, the reclamation of common lands, schools, dress and diet, and at the life and thought of such key figures as John Ruskin, William Morris and Edward Carpenter. The book is divided into four parts: The Cult of the Countryside, Tilling the Earth, Rustic Arts and Crafts, and Pioneers of the New Life. 'I read it with delight. It is beautifully done - the research, the argument and above all the clarity of the writing' - Adam Nicholson. 'An eminently readable survey of the pastoral aspect of the aesthetic movement dominated by Ruskin, Morris and Carpenter around the turn of the century' - Deborah Singmaster, "Times Literary Supplement".
'A synoptic study which includes dress reform, the folk-song and folk-dance movement, the impulse to safeguard commons, footpaths and ancient monuments, the revolution ins gardening, progressive schools like Abottsholme and Bedales...when we dine out in Fulham and sit round a scrubbed deal table with a string of onions hanging over earthenware crocks, we are paying tribute to the potency of the ideologies this book entertainingly chronicles' - Colin Ward, "New Society".