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The History of the Countryside: The Classic History of Britain's Landscape, Flora and Fauna

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (December 31, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842124404
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842124406
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,563,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


'It would seem a mammoth task to trace the history of the British countryside, but one that the author achieves well. With more than 100 colour photographs, the book appears almost as a cross between a geography textbook and a glossy coffee-table book. Whatever it is, it's un-put-downable for anyone who has any interest in the countryside, giving a vivid overview of how and why our landscape is as it is today.' SHOOTING TIMES & COUNTRY MAGAZINE (July 2003) 'Any walk, any drive, any bike ride, anywhere in the British countryside will take you past such a wealth of history that you'd never get anywhere if you stopped to explore and appreciate all that's there. When you do stop to take a look though, you'll need a guide to explain what it is you're looking at. Oliver Rackham's marvellous book is that guide... And even if you never leave your house, THE ILLUSTRATED... is so full of fascinating anecdotes about the way our landscape has been changed' LIVING HISTORY (September 2003) 'This is a wonderful account of the English countryside and man's influence upon it over the centuries. Profusely illustrated, it explains simply, for example, why fens were created, the effects of the introduction of the rabbit and the way to coppice woods.' FAMILY HISTORY MONTHLY (September 2003) 'This is a rural detective story, a book that looks at history, ecology and consrvation in the countryside and details the many-layered story of the British landscape...and recording human intervention and activity along with natural phenomena... Illustrated with more than 100 colour plates including maps and photoraphs, this is a handy guide-cum-reference book that is also a pleasure to read' HOME & COUNTRY (WI) (October 2003) 'Repackaged and beautifully illustrated, Rackham's classic guide to the shaping of our countryside reveals the fascinating - and often shady - past of the British landscape.' COUNTRYSIDE VOICE (Autumn 2003) 'How to read the landscape around you, and walk in it with knowledge and understanding. A fascinating exploration of Britain, to read with pleasure.' CHOICE (November 2003) 'Each [chapter] is a carefully documented record of developments from the earliest times to 2000, from the original wildwood to our present patchwork countryside ... idiosyncratic and stimulating book.' COUNTRYMAN (October 2003) 'Crammed full to capacity with information about the landscape and nature, and including some splendid walks in some fo the author's favourite areas, this is a book that will please any country lover.' THIS ENGLAND (Winter 2003) 'The erudition of the author across all aspects of how history, in the form of animals, climate and man have shaped the British countryside is exceptional. It is not just the weight of fact and insight that impresses but the way these are woven together in a readable and accessible form... it is impossible to delve into these pages without discovering some fascinating fact about the countryside. A worthwhile addition to any country library.' THE FIELD (December 2003) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

An acknowledged authority on the countryside and its history, Dr Oliver Rackham carries out research in the Botany Department at Cambridge University, where he is a Fellow of Corpus Christi College.

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J C E Hitchcock on August 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book, written by a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, tells the story of the forces, human and natural, which shaped the landscape of the British Isles. Examples of the sort of ground it covers are given by Dr Rackham in his opening paragraph, when he says that in his childhood he wondered why roads had bends, why lanes were sunk into the ground, what dogwood and spindle were doing in the hedges, why fields were of odd shapes, and why elms stopped abruptly just north of Bungay. (A town in Norfolk, where he grew up). The book represents his attempts to answer these questions, and many others like them.

The book is not written in strict chronological order from the Ice Age to the 20th century (the book was written in 1986); Dr Rackham rather treats each different type of habitat- woodland, fields, heathland, moorland, marshes, etc.- in turn. He describes each type of habitat and then traces its development over time from prehistory to the present. In addition, there are chapters setting out his methods and the type of evidence he relies on, and dealing with Britain's native flora and fauna, especially those species which have become extinct in historical times (bears, wolves, wild boar) or which have been introduced by man (rabbits, fallow deer, pheasants, sycamore trees).

Dr Rackham lays to rest a few well-worn myths about the countryside. It is not, for example, true, as is sometimes said, that mediaeval England was a densely wooded country which a squirrel could have crossed from coast to coast without ever setting foot on the ground, before the dense woodlands were destroyed to provide timber for the Royal Navy. Certainly, prehistoric Britain was almost wholly tree-covered, but the coming of agriculture meant that most of the woods were felled.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
During an expat job in the UK, I would wonder how the countryside there got many of the features you see there. This book did a very good job of explaining the origins of roads, walls, forests, woods, pastures, hedges, etc in the UK. I look forward to tracking down a few more of Rackham's books on other parts of the world.
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