The Grand Tour

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins and cultural impact of 18th century tourism. Samuel Johnson observed in 1776 that “A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see.” Johnson was referring, perhaps ironically, to the vogue for The Grand Tour, which reached its peak in the 18th century. The idea was for wealthy young travellers to finish their education with an extensive trip to Europe to experience its natural beauties, its cultural treasures and, if they were lucky, its sexual permissiveness. The standard route took in Paris and The Alps and some tourists, including Byron, made it as far as Greece. But the destination, par excellence, was Italy, with its Renaissance glories and classical splendours. What drove this desire for travel? Was it genuine cultural curiosity or simply the fashion? What impact did the Grand Tour have on British attitudes to art and culture? And were diplomatic relations between Britain and Europe helped or hindered by these travels?

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  • Chloe Chard No other episodes
    Literary historian
  • Jeremy Black 8 episodes
    Professor of History, University of Exeter
  • Edward Chaney No other episodes
    Professor of Fine and Decorative Arts, Southampton Institute

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Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, in 1776 Samuel Johnson observed that a man who's not been in Italy is always conscious of an inferiority from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see.