Our Research

ISWE is a national hub for coordinating research into landed estates, country houses and their associated archives and heritage collections.  This programme of scholarship has significant potential to redefine how we understand the histories, cultures and landscapes of Wales.

Estates formed one of the primary frameworks in the life of Wales from the time of their creation in the medieval period through to their demise and breakup in the early-twentieth century.  Ownership and control of land permitted the gentry and aristocracy to exert profound influences on areas as diverse as agriculture and industry; architecture, art, music and literature; and politics, law, trade, religion and education.  Some of these spheres of influence were intensely localised, affecting the nature of place and identity across different parts of Wales.  Other influences, interests and connections were national and international in scope and significance.  Estates varied in their size, character, composition and longevity, giving rise to a range of different experiences.  They included and affected all layers of society and virtually all parts of the landscape: from country houses with their parks, gardens and outbuildings to tenant farms and cottages, woodlands, fields and roads, churches, chapels and schools, and industrial sites such as mines, quarries and ports. 

It is our objective to heighten understanding of this complex through a vibrant programme of collections-based projects, especially at doctoral and early-career levels.  Our research is inherently interdisciplinary and collaborative in nature, collating insights and expertise from different subject areas and a variety of source materials to provide new perspectives.

Our programme incorporates estate and place-specific case studies alongside thematic analysis, collections-based initiatives and collaborative networks which explore themes and subjects on an international basis.  This programme is cumulatively revising how we understand our history, culture, landscape, identity, society, heritage and built environment. 

Key cross-cutting themes in our research include:

  • Welsh identities and gentry cultures
  • Landownership, landscape and land management
  • The Welsh country house: past, present and future
  • Tenants and landowners: social relations in Welsh history
  • Welsh visual, material, textual and performative cultures: patronage, collecting and display
  • Estate archives: creation, use and preservation
  • Ancestry, inheritance and uses of history
  • The history the Welsh language and multilingualism
  • Gender and the Welsh estate: hierarchies, roles and relationships
  • Place and identity
  • Global connections: Wales, empire and colonialism
  • The influences of radical nonconformism
  • Heritage interpretation

You can read more about our research in the projects section of our website.  We welcome enquiries and ideas from students and external organisations about prospective research projects linked to our interests.