Oxford from the air

A balloon trip over Oxford. Such a calm and peaceful experience - indeed, there was hardly any wind, so we didn't go far, and were forced to land on a slip road off the A34.

Seeing the traces of iron age workings on Port Meadow is very intriguing and forces me to think about perception and topography in different ways. It's difficult to imagine the sense of awe and wonder that the early balloonists in the eighteenth century must have felt, seeing the world in a completely new way. Seeing the extent of the earth, its curvature. It also seems incredible that it was only in the early decades of the twentieth century that photography from the air added a powerful tool to archaeologists' kit.

Another aspect that the flight confirmed for me is the nature of property in Britain. I had already thought about this when walking through the grounds of Blenheim Palace recently, and from the air we could see the long stretch of land that leads to the Column of Victory. Eighteenth century society was predicated upon property. A person's standing in relation to their family, to their contemporaries, and to society and politics was determined by the amount of property they owned (or did not own). The grounds of these private estates were designed to demonstrate in the most overwhelming and spectacular way the fundamental connection between property and power.

Godstow nunnery


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