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Modern British birdsong and civilization

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr. P MR Howell.

Please email pmh1000@cam.ac.uk if you would like to attend this talk in person; owing to Covid safeguards, attendance is restricted in numbers.

In times of threat and warfare, the natural world has been an important source of hope and healing. The ongoing aliveness of nature has reinforced notions of stability, continuity, endurance and nationhood. British people of all kinds found that in the pressures and crises of early twentieth century modernity, the vibrations and rhythms of everyday nature allowed a modern future to be imaged. Birdsong in particular seemed to animate the scenery – of the suburbs as well as the countryside. Birdsong found a place in the founding of the new domestic medium of radio, and as part of the BBC ’s national cultural menu. During the Second World War, birdlife was understood to be part of a civilized world, untainted by human conflict. The talk will consider listening to nature as a way of making sense of modern life, drawing from my new book, Listening to British Nature: Wartime, Radio and Modern Life, 1914-1945. I will argue that the sounds of the natural world were sought out and pulled close to secure the day and future prospects.

This talk is part of the Vital Geographies - Department of Geography series.

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