'God made the country, man made the town.' William Cowper's words, written two centuries ago, underline an idealisation of rural life and landscape which persists to this day. What are the main historical processes and ideas underlying the continuing attachment to the countryside? How have these shaped popular values and lifestyles influenced artistic expression, defined attitudes to nature, country life and 8andscape, and affected the development of both rural and urban landscapes? What are the consequences for society and the environment? These are the central questions addressed in this book. The Countryside Ideal draws together diverse images of landscape to explore this preoccupation with place, culture and representation in the West.