This is a history of the environment of England, Wales and Scotland, and of the interactions of people, place and nature since the last ice sheet withdrew some ten thousand years ago. It is concerned with the changing cultures (in the full anthropological sense) of the peoples inhabiting Britain as well as with the environment they transformed, exploited, abused and cherished. As the author points out, every culture in Britain has had to acknowledge its placement on a set of islands 50 N where any month of the year can be the wettest month of the year, where there are some long shallow estuaries and a few deep inlets, and where cereals do not reliably ripen 300 metres above sea-level. Cultural imagination cannot alter these realities, but it can variously view them as dangerous or picturesque, as economic or uneconomic. The book is a history of changing reflexivity in the interactions between people, culture, and nature. The book is structured as a chronological narrative. It is written with unusual grace, wit and clarity, and illustrated with 50 photographs and some 60 maps and diagrams, all specially prepared for this book.
The author draws on a very wide range of sources and uses scientific evidence as well as the conventional historical record, as well as on his own experience of the landscapes of Britain. This is cultural and natural history at its best, with a wide appeal within and without the academy.
Ian G Simmons retired in 2001 from his position as Emeritus Professor of Geography at the University of Durham. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, and the author of many books including The Ecology of Natural Resources(Arnold 1973), Environmental History: An Introduction (Blackwell 1994), Changing the Face of the Earth (second edn, Blackwell 1996), and Humanity and Environment (Longman 1997). He received the Victoria Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1998.