Eighteenth-century Britain saw an explosion of interest in its own past, a past now expanded to include more than classical history and high politics.
Antiquaries, men interested in all aspects of the past, added a distinctive new dimension to literature in Georgian Britain in their attempts to reconstruct and recover the past. Corresponding and publishing in an extended network, antiquaries worked at preserving and investigating records and physical remains in England, Scotland and Ireland. In doing so they laid solid foundations for all future study in British prehistory, archaeology and numismatics, and for local and national history as a whole. Naturally, they saw the past partly in their own image. While many antiquaries were better at fieldwork and recording than at synthesis, most were neither crabbed eccentrics nor dilettanti. At their best, as in the works of Richard Gough or William Stukeley, antiquaries set new standards of accuracy and perception in fields ranging from the study of the ancient Britons to that of medieval architecture. Antiquaries is the definitive account of a great historical enterprise.