ABSTRACT

Any history that seeks to trace the origins of the preservation movement – to which historians naturally feel a close sense of connection – is bound to start out at least implicitly with some pretty whiggish assumptions.1 The story we are telling is about the origins of a movement, which began marginal and unheralded (yet righteous), and ended up contemporary, triumphant, achieved. ‘Preservation’ has become in our own time so consensual, even dominant, so universally approved, that it is hard not to believe either that it always ought to have been so or even that (if we only look at its history properly) it really always was. Today we may be achieving some distance from those origins, and from the implicit whiggish assumptions of the earlier histories of the movement, but our field is still shaped by those historiographical origins. In this chapter I want both to describe that shape and to suggest some alternative shapes, starting from different origins, not from the origins of preservationism but the wider context (often hostile) within and against which the early preservationists had to work.