Allison Adler Kroll

Allison Adler Kroll

Allison Adler Kroll

TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities), Environmental Humanities Group, University of Oxford

I have spent much of my career writing about heritage culture and landscape conservation. My first doctorate is in nineteenth- and twentieth-century English literature, and my thesis traced the literary history of heritage institutions, including the National Trust, in England from their imaginative foundations in the early nineteenth century to their rise as an industry in the twentieth century and beyond. My current book project, Moments of Vision: Lightscapes, European Nature Writing, and Modern Identity, is an environmental humanities study that places modern English writing about nature in a European context. The focus is on lightscapes and vision in relation to modern identity and the localisms through which that identity often emerged within a secularising culture. I explore the quality of luminosity in the work of Woolf, Proust, Valery, Auden, and von Arnim (among others), as well as in that of modern ‘nature writers’, especially in terms of how light shapes our perception of individual landscapes. I am also currently completing work on a history thesis which revolves around the relationship between royal, imperial, and aristocratic landscapes and the circulation of ideas about landscape in Britain and France, 1760-1818.

I co-organise the TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities) Environmental Humanities programme, a network of academics who write about the environment, conservation professionals, and environmentally-engaged artists. Our programme collaborates with a number of heritage and conservation organisations, including the National Trust, the RSPB, the Woodland Trust, and Historic Royal Palaces.

Explore Allison’s Work

Martin Stott

Martin Stott

Martin Stott

Sustainability campaigner, photographer, local champion, Oxford

I have worked on sustainable development and regeneration issues in my career in local government, having graduated from Oxford in geography and LSE in town and country planning. I am now a writer and photographer documenting the granular and quotidian characteristics of small spaces and the people who live in them – particularly in east Oxford, where I have lived for the past 40 years. My book The Cowley Road Cookbook: culinary tales and recipes from Oxford’s most eclectic street (Signal Books, 2015) documents the social and cultural history of one street through food, from the twelfth century to the present day. I blog as ‘Lord Muck’ in a fairly light-hearted manner on gardening, growing, cooking, composting and other aspects of our interaction with the natural world.

I have explored William Morris’s experience of, response to, and continuing impact on Iceland in ‘What came we forth for to see that our hearts are so hot with desire: Morris and Iceland’ in The Routledge Companion to William Morris (ed. Florence Boos; Routledge, 2021).

I have been working since mid-2018 on a project to record every household on the street I have lived on for the past 33 years, in the Divinity Road Photo Project.  The street is very long, very diverse and very transient, and has been identified as the street with the widest range of household incomes in England. The COVID-19 pandemic has reframed and refocussed the project in a context where our understanding of neighbourhoods has become ever more important.

“Divinity Road has been identified as the street with the widest range of household incomes in England”

Explore Martin’s Work

Portrait of man at bay window
Martin Stott, Mallard Haye with his Arum Lilies, from The Divinity Road Photo Project, 2018

The Divinity Road Photo Project

The Routledge Companion to William Morris

Cookbook cover

The Cowley Road Cookbook: culinary tales and recipes from Oxford’s most eclectic street (Signal Books, 2015)

Literature for quiet times

Alexandra Harris got together with Professor Kate McLoughlin, who is researching the history of silence, to think about texts that seemed particularly meaningful in the first weeks of lockdown and isolation.

William Cowper's summerhouse in Olney

William Cowper’s summerhouse in Olney

They recorded four short podcasts: on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 23, DH Lawrence’s ‘Silence’, a moment of pause in Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts, and William Cowper’s defence of quiet home life in The Task.

Podcast 4, on William Cowper, is especially concerned with place. Cowper rarely travelled far from home, and much of his poetry considers what might be gained by attending seriously to domestic life and local surroundings.

The text discussed by Kate and Alex is from Book 3 of The Task:

How various his employments, whom the world
Calls idle, and who justly in return
Esteems that busy world an idler, too!
Friends, books, a garden, and perhaps his pen,
Delightful industry enjoyed at home,
And nature in her cultivated trim
Dressed to his taste, inviting him abroad—
Can he want occupation who has these?
Will he be idle who has much to enjoy?
Me, therefore, studious of laborious ease,
Not slothful; happy to deceive the time,
Not waste it; and aware that human life
Is but a loan to be repaid with use,
When He shall call His debtors to account,
From whom are all our blessings; business finds
Even here: while sedulous I seek to improve,
At least neglect not, or leave unemployed,
The mind He gave me; driving it, though slack
Too oft, and much impeded in its work
By causes not to be divulged in vain,
To its just point—the service of mankind.
He that attends to his interior self,
That has a heart and keeps it; has a mind
That hungers and supplies it; and who seeks
A social, not a dissipated life,
Has business; feels himself engaged to achieve
No unimportant, though a silent task.
A life all turbulence and noise may seem,
To him that leads it, wise and to be praised;
But wisdom is a pearl with most success
Sought in still water, and beneath clear skies.


Find the full series at TORCH | Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities


Local Attachments

Fiona StaffordFiona Stafford - Local Attachments (Oxford, 2010)

Recommended by Alexandra Harris

One of the many remarkable things that happened towards the end of the eighteenth century was that local feeling and the life of particular places became great literary subjects. You wouldn’t expect to find a Jacobean poet writing about the River Duddon (unless perhaps it was a symbol of national prosperity), but of Wordsworth you would expect nothing less. Paying close attention to the changing cultural status of local particularity, Stafford asks how and why this came about, and how Romantic writers, poem by poem, made places matter.

Read the introduction on the OUP website

The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village

Eamon Duffy (New Haven, 2001)

The Voices of Morebath: Reformation & Rebellion in an English Village by Eamon DuffyRecommended by Alexandra Harris

A revelatory example of what happens when the great movements of national and international history are explored from a particular on-the-ground vantage point. Morebath is a small village on the edge of Exmoor; the priest there in the mid seventeenth century kept detailed parish records, and these form a core around which Duffy builds up a portrait of rural Catholic life and how people responded to the changes they faced. It’s a good starting point for exploring the varied field of historical writing in which skilled and painstaking archival work is made to yield precious clues about the experience of rural and working people whose lives have been otherwise forgotten.


The History of Myddle

Richard Gough, ed. David Hey (London, 1981)

The History of Myddle by Richard GoughRecommended by Alexandra Harris

A pioneering work of local history. Richard Gough was a Shropshire yeoman who wanted to write about his parish community: its past and its present. In 1701 he published a study of the antiquities in Myddle, following more or less the newly established conventions for antiquarian place studies. But he wanted to write about more than the pedigrees of manorial lords and the relics of monastic houses, so he invented a form to suit him and embarked on his ‘Observations concerning the Seats in Myddle and the families to which they belong’. By ‘seats’ he meant pews in the church. He drew a plan of St Peter’s, labelled the pews, and wrote a portrait of each member of the congregation, seat by seat. Though he was imagining them all in church, he was writing lives that strayed far from the orderly Sunday formation, into fields and towns, into bedrooms, backrooms, affairs, and quarrels. It was a simple and evocative method of group biography; no-one seems to have used it before, or since.