A Land, published in 1951, was the masterpiece of an extraordinary writer and archaeologist. Drawn to the deep past and the study of nature since childhood, Jacquetta Hawkes (1910-1996) combined a poetic imagination with scientific understanding. A Land united these to create a unique work that tells Britain’s million-year story in a compelling new way.
Jacquetta Hawkes by a waterfall ca. 1951
As Jacquetta said in her preface to the book, “The image I have sought to evoke is of an entity, the land of Britain, in which past and present, nature, man and art appear all in one piece … I see a land as much affected by the creations of its poets and painters as by changes of climate and vegetation”. Typically, Jacquetta began the book with her own experience, lying on the ground of her back garden in London, which made her think about the geology below.
A Land tapped in to a contemporary revival of interest in Britain, its history, its distinctive past, its visual heritage, and was itself an appealing artefact. It featured colour drawings by sculptor Henry Moore; Jacquetta had discussed his creative use of the qualities of stones in the book. The book made a great impression at the time, and was awarded the Kemsley Special Award. It continues to inspire. Jacquetta’s view that humans could not be separate from nature is more resonant now than ever.
The Jacquetta Hawkes Archive at the University of Bradford covers the development of the book: manuscript, typescript, different editions, illustrations.
Some of our archives documenting A Land, on show Ilkley 2010
To find out more about Jacquetta:
A life online: Jacquetta Hawkes archaeo-poet, by Christine Finn Biography of Jacquetta by a fellow archaeologist and writer.
Past, Present, Man, Nature: online exhibition by Alison Cullingford (who also curates 100 Objects) telling Jacquetta’s story through objects in the Archive.
Our Jacquetta Hawkes blog. News from Christine Finn and Special Collections, and reflection on Jacquetta’s work and ideas.