Monday, 28 June 2010

Environmental History of Great Britain

from 10 000 years ago to the present

This book by I G Simmons is an excellent overview of the human effects on the landscape and wildlife of the British Isles. It is a large, expensive and academic book but it is accessible enough for anyone with a keen interest in the subject. I found it fascinating for the way it outlined changes and shows that some things we thing are traditional or even natural are not necessarily that way.

For example hedgerows. Hedgerows are a wonderful part of the British landscape and a vital resource for wildlife and we are rightly upset when they are uprooted to make way for roads or to allow more intensive farming. But how traditional are they? In fact in mediaeval times fields were pretty large and many hedgerows weren't introduced until Enclosure of the lands from 1300 onwards. This of course affected bird populations, so some species which are now declining are perhaps only declining to their mediaeval levels.

Although this is not meant to divert attention from the fact that we are facing catastrophic declines in some of our wildlife species, it does help to bring a different perspective to it. Some element of change is not a cause for concern and is just part of natural cycles. The challenge then of course is how to tell the difference.

This is a fascinating book and definitely worth reading by anyone interested in the UK's natural history.

An Environmental History of Great Britain by I G Simmons, published by Edinburgh University Press.

9 comments:

dazydaywriter said...

Sounds like a good book, indeed. Thanks for sharing. I've never been to Europe, but maybe someday. Have a good friend in London (we went to high school together) and she loves it. Have a great week. I'll keep the book in mind! --Daisy

The Weaver of Grass said...

Interesting take on things Juliet.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

This sounds like a lot of years to pack into one book! I found the hedgerows fascinating during those few years I lived in the UK. But this sounds more like my husband’s type of book than mine, so I’ll pass along your review.

Howard BME said...

Does this book explain when and why the vast majority of upland forest was cleared from Scotland? That’s a question to which I’d love to know the definitive answer.

Rabbits' Guy said...

Should be (or maybe something less dense) part of the Citizen's Handbook of required reading!

I read Sarum .. not environmental, but plenty of history!

bunnits said...

Sounds like something I'd like to get my hands on sometime. It would be a great companion to works on GB archaeology. Thanks for the info.

mansuetude said...

10 000 years, its almost boggling to a mortal brain. Interesting perspective that keeps things in perspectives.

James said...

Fascinating. I guess it's good to remember that some species probably have increased due to our activities. Reminds me of the cedar around here (in central Texas) the only reason its so abundant is because we've been putting out all the grassfires for the past 100 years or so.

The Storialist said...

I love books that examine designed land. Sounds fun!