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Head of Zeus
Mountain Republic
10 Jun 2021 * HARDBACK * £35 * 9781838931827

A history of one of the most beautiful and best-loved corners of England – nestling deep within the mountains and valleys of the Lake District.

Non Fiction / HBLL (Modern History)
Extent: 736 pages  Format: 234 x 153 mm
Exclusive: GB CA AU NZ IN ZA SG US
Mountain Republic: A Lake District Parish - Eighteen Men, The Lake Poets and the National Trustby Philippa Harrison

An affectionate but meticulously researched history of one of the most beautiful and best-loved corners of England – Crosthwaite Parish, nestling deep within the mountains and valleys of the Lake District.

'A unique contribution to English history' Hunter Davies

'A delightful, refreshingly written book, attentive to social detail and telling the only story that matters – history' Simon Jenkins

'A wonderful book' Margaret Drabble

'A completely fresh perspective on the Lakes and Lake Poets... I hugely enjoyed it' Andrew Marr

Bounded by the peaks of Scafell, Skiddaw and Helvellyn, and embracing such well-known landmarks as Borrowdale, Derwentwater and Keswick, it lies within the heart of the Lake Poets' landscape and its rugged terrain excites passion in all those who know it.

The Parish also boasts a remarkable history. Its 90 square miles were governed, from medieval times, by eighteen annually chosen 'customary tenants'; ancestors of the people who later prompted Wordsworth's portrayal of the area as 'a perfect Republic of Shepherds and agriculturalists'. His fellow poet Robert Southey lived within the Parish for forty years, was an active parishioner and rests in St Kentigern's churchyard. Here he is given his rightful position as a Lake Poet. In the nineteenth century, the Victorian state killed off the old parish system, sweeping away the egalitarian rule of the Eighteen Men. But a degree of redemption was at hand. Canon Rawnsley, vicar of Crosthwaite from 1883, pledged to defend the Lake District for future generations. So the Parish was at the heart of the creation of the National Trust and blazed a trail for a wider movement to preserve the English landscape.

Writing with a historian's rigour and bearing aloft the banner of the Lake District statesmen, Philippa Harrison has produced a magisterial and fascinating record of a parish with a unique social, cultural and aesthetic resonance in English history.

Philippa Harrison had a long and distinguished career in publishing: she was chief executive and publisher of Little, Brown UK and the first female president of the Publishers Association. She comes from a long line of farmers in the Furness fells, and lives in the same vicarage that Canon Rawnsley lived in when he co-founded the National Trust.

A beautifully produced, authoritative social history of a remarkable area of England's Lake District.

The Lake District receives 15.8m visitors each year. The story of Crosthwaite will interest a large, passionately engaged audience.

After a long and distinguished career in publishing, the author now lives in the vicarage once occupied by Canon Rawnsley, a founder of the National Trust.

MARKET: Hunter Davies; Francis Pryor; Robert Macfarlane.


'Has there ever been a parish history so well researched, so filled with history and literature, campaigns and causes, and so fascinating? No chance. This is a unique contribution to English history' Hunter Davies, author of Lakeland

'Stimulating, wide-ranging and full of interest' Angus J L Winchester, Emeritus Professor of History, Lancaster University

'A delightful, refreshingly written book, attentive to social detail and telling the only story that matters – history' Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust 2008-2014

A completely fresh perspective on the Lakes and Lake Poets... I hugely enjoyed it' Andrew Marr

'I love Mountain Republic. Both intimate and authoritative, it is a wonderful book' Margaret Drabble

'This remarkable chronicle introduces the reader to Christian missionaries, Anglo-Saxon and Norse invaders, Scottish royals, local gentry, the 'Eighteen Men', Romantic poets, a succession of clergy with widely and sometimes wildly diverse convictions, and the local people who shaped the land in which they were rooted as the land shaped them. With a rare combination of finely detailed erudition and engaging, elegant, page-turning prose, Philippa Harrison charts the evolution of the Lake District. Anyone who reads her narrative will be richly rewarded' Dr John Inge, Bishop of Worcester

'Philippa's perspective as both a local and a historian provides a fascinating take' This England

[An] affectionate scholarship grounded in the Lake District parish of Crosthwaite... [An] appropriately monumental book' Church Times

'At its heart this is a history of the farming communities of the region [...] with the ability to appeal to all those attracted to the region and not just the Lake district. A very difficult book to put down, sparking interest at each turn of the page' Chris Craghill, Cumbria Local History Federation

'There must have been thousands of books written about the Lake District, but if you thought that there could be nothing left to say about it, then think again; this fascinating social history of Crosthwaite parish stopped even this Cumbrian reader and writer in her tracks... It already looks destined for a place in the Lake District literary canon' Sue Allan, Cumbria Life

'A remarkable book with great merit... A well-written work which provides a valuable chronicle of the interplay over centuries between local management and national and regional controlling institutions, which is relevant to so many local parishes and townships' Dr Derek Denman, Wanderer, L&DFLHS

'An amazing achievement. I learned such a lot from it, from the history, from the industry, from agriculture, social history, land-ownership, museums, the economy, and then whole substories which I just found fascinating: the history of the churches in the 1830s, the sewage... Tthe mass trespass on 'Skiddaw's cub' which I knew nothing about. At times it was as though our collection was being brought alive by the portraits of some often-mentioned names, and I particularly want to thank Philippa for changing and opening my eyes about Robert Southey' Jeff Cowton, Curator and Head of Learning, Wordsworth Grasmere, The Lake Poets: Hill Farming, Mountaineering and Politics

'A big-hearted-embrace of a book, and there are riches in it for all readers ... Philippa Harrison is a gifted narrator, Mountain Republic is a great read and a treasure trove of anecdote and fact for regional historians' Terry McCormick, Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society News

'This authoritative and well-researched history is very accessible, very enjoyable and full of fascinating details... A joy to read from beginning to end' The Local Historian

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