Olivia Leitch – The Cornish Question: Conflicted Means and Uncertain Ends in Cornish Heritage Tourism and Indigenous Identity


Cornwall is situated in the westernmost part of England’s southwest peninsula and has unique Celtic links, similar to those of Scotland, Wales and Brittany. Due to these factors of location and historical connection, Cornwall is set apart from the nation in which it is located. Indeed, referring to it as a county proves contentious for many residents due to its distinctive heritage and culture. As such, this research examines how and why Cornwall is viewed as ‘different’ to England and the ways in which the nation appreciates, respects, or neglects these differences. Whilst government policy has slowly begun to acknowledge Cornish distinctiveness, many believe that it is too late. Cornwall is already inundated with tourists and in-migrants and it is argued that as a result, Cornish identity is threatened. This research combines primary data with secondary literature to examine the case of Cornwall, including its landscape, heritage, culture, and citizens.

The coastline and countryside which make up the Cornish landscape motivate tourism within Cornwall. Depictions of the region frequently focus on these features rather than historical or cultural aspects, thus leading to the commodification of the area; the countryside is consumed in order to fuel the tourism industry. Cornwall relies significantly on the tourism industry, due to the decline of its native industries, yet through commercialization, this very industry threatens Cornish heritage. This research therefore asks, ‘Who owns Cornwall’s heritage and who cares?’ It examines the conflict between residents and visitors and the ways in which each inhabit the same space for different purposes.

Overall, this dissertation argues that the tourism industry contributes to the evolving nature of Cornish culture and identity. With tourism as such a large influence within the region, it is inevitable that visitors ultimately contribute to a contemporary model of Cornish heritage. In order for the region to continue to promote itself as distinct, whilst also welcoming visitors, it is essential that these same visitors are accepted as part of the Cornish narrative. Although incomers must simultaneously respect Cornish culture and attempt to integrate themselves into the community. Cornwall’s story continues to evolve and through the combined efforts of residents and visitors, Cornwall’s public history can become a shared resource for all.

 Olivia Leitch Thesis