Imagining England's Past Inspiration, Enchantment, Obsession

Susan Owens

Imagining England’s Past explores England’s national myths, from the glamorous to the disturbing, and from the eighth century to the present day.

England has long built its sense of self on its past. What does it mean for Geoffrey of Monmouth to call forth King Arthur from the post-Roman fog, for William Morris to resurrect the skills of the medieval workshop, and Julia Margaret Cameron to portray the Arthurian court using her Victorian camera?

Told through the distinctive imaginings of successive generations, this book considers how and why national myths have come into being, the multitude of forms they have taken, and what centuries of looking back might mean for the present and future. More than three hundred voices are featured from over thirteen centuries, from Beowulf, Walter Scott, and Queen Victoria to Pauline Boty and Lubaina Himid.

Not a history of England, but a history of those who have written, drawn, and dreamed it into being, Imagining England’s Past offers a lively, erudite account of the creation and narration of the English past.



— Choice


Susan Owens


Dr. Susan Owens is an art historian and curator who has worked at the Royal Collection and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her previous books include Spirit of Place: Artists, Writers & the British Landscape, Christina Rossetti: Poetry in Art, and The Ghost: A Cultural History.