Leonard J Baker

Mr Leonard J Baker

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Personal profile

Research interests

Thesis Title: 'Spaces, Places, Custom and Protest in Rural Somerset and Dorset, c. 1780-1867'

Focusing on the rural communities of England, my research examines how the environment and non-human actors shaped the forms and functions of resistance. Through their everyday lives and interactions with rural landscapes, countryfolk struggled against landscape change, political exclusivity and poor working conditions. Crucially, it was during the nineteenth century that a series of opposing ecological visions developed, seeking to re-establish an ethical relationship between men, masters, beasts and the environment. These landscapes and natural resources thus became entangled in national political debates and social movements. My work demonstrates how local spaces and places were deployed to interpret, perform and contest national political concerns or debates. By treating the countryside as a quotidian source of political agency, I reveal how ecologies and non-human actors provided legitimacy for both protestors and politicians. Through my various writings, I highlight how protests were shaped by physical and moral geographies and how acts of resistance, in turn, materially altered the landscape.

I am currently funded by a University of Bristol Graduate School of Arts and Humanities Scholarship. 


L. Baker, ‘Human and Animal Trespass as Protest: Space and Continuity in Rural Somerset and Dorset’, History Workshop Journal, 87 (April 2019), pp. 72-93.

L. Baker, ‘“West Country Scum”: National Politics, Local Ritual and Space in the English South West, c. 1820-1832’, Romance, Revolution & Reform, 1 (April 2019), pp. 9-31.

Conference Papers

‘The Moral Ecology of the English Crowd? Resisting Landscape Change in Somerset and Dorset, c. 1780-1850’, British History in the Long 18th Century Seminar (Due to be Presented, Institute of Historical Research, London, October 2019).

‘Ecologies in Conflict: Landscape Change, Ritual and Protest in the Nineteenth Century English South West’, British Agricultural History Society Spring Conference: Historical Perspectives on Rural Economies, Societies, Landscapes and Environments (University of Nottingham, April 2019).

‘“What business do you have in this house? Reform!”: Sites of Electoral Protest and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Rural England’, The Politics of Sedition in Long Nineteenth-Century Britain: A Social and Cultural Discourse (University of Warwick, November 2018).

‘Defending and Reconstructing Environments: The Power of Trespass in Nineteenth-Century Somerset and Dorset’, Environmental History Workshop 2018: Intersections, (Institute of Historical Research, London, September 2018).

‘“West Country Scum”: Nineteenth-Century National Politics, Local Ritual and Space in the English South West’, Regionalism Across the World in the Long Nineteenth Century (University of Southampton, September 2018).

‘A “Castle of Corruption”: Sites of Political Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Rural England and the Role of Space, Place and Ritual’, Modern British Studies Conference 2018: Ways of Knowing in (and about) Modern Britain, (University of Birmingham, July 2018).

‘Constructing and Contesting Environments: The Power of Trespass in Nineteenth-Century Somerset and Dorset’, Landscape by Design: Figures in the Landscape Symposium, (University of Cardiff, June 2018).

‘An Ecology from Below? Protest, Memory and Landscape in Nineteenth-Century Dorset’, Rethinking History from Below: Origins, Trajectories, Prospects (University of Bristol, June 2017).

‘“The Handley Torches Have Not Forgot”: Protest, Memory and Landscape Change in a North Dorset Village, 1818-1832’, Royal Historical Society Symposium 2017 – Putting History in its Place: Historic Landscapes and Environments, (University of Chester, April 2017).

‘Landscape Change, Vernacular Ecology and the Politics of Rural Space in Nineteenth-Century Somerset and Dorset’, Economic History Society Residential Training Course (University of Manchester, November 2016).

‘Popular Protest in the English South West: Political Landscapes, Elite Interaction and Everyday Disorder, c. 1783-1867’, British History in the Long 18th Century Seminar (Institute of Historical Research, London, October 2015).

Conference and Academic Event Organisation

Conference Convenor: ‘Entertainment, Politics and Culture: Perspective on a Historical Relationship’, History Lab Annual Conference, Institute of Historical Research, London. (February 2018 – June 2018)

Postgraduate Strand Conference Convenor: ‘Rethinking History from Below: Origins, Trajectories, Prospects’, University of Bristol. (April 2017 – June 2017)


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