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The Illustrated History of the Countryside [Paperback]

Dr Oliver Rackham
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

12 May 1997
THE ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE COUNTRYSIDE tells us the many-layered story of the British Landscape. Oliver Rackham shows, with passion and hunour, how to read our surroundings; the past - even the medievil past - lives around us.

Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New edition edition (12 May 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857999533
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857999532
  • Product Dimensions: 27.6 x 20.8 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 72,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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.

Book Description

A fascinating companion guide to the true story of Britain's countryside --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
THIS IS A RE-WORKING OF MY BOOK The History of the Countryside, first published in 1986. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning book on how the countryside came to be 11 Mar 1999
By A Customer
The Norfolk Broads are artificial, not natural. Forests traditionally could exist without a tree in sight. Oliver Rackham has a few surprises up his sleeve but what really makes this book great is that for all its 500 or so pages, its a total page turner!
The British countryside was made: barely an acre of our land is in its prehistoric state. This book shows how woods, fields ponds and heath grew up alongside mankind; how they were used, and how historical documents as well as the land itself takes us far back into history.
The land changes slowly, and despite the damage of the last 100 years there is much of historical interest to be found, and the guided walks of the illustrated edition take you there.
A beautiful example of how a lifelong academic can remain passionate about his subject and totally readable. I read the non-illustrated version, but I checked the illustrated one in the local bookshop and it looks fantastic.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative & Readable 26 May 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This informative book is a must for anyone interested in the development and evolution of our countryside. It covers everything around us from ancient pollarding techniques and forestry; designer parks; celtic field systems; historical hedges and highways; heaths and moorland; to anything water. It helps us to look at familiar local landmarks around us with a new understanding. It also includes eight illustrated and well-described walks that explain exactly how to decipher what we are looking at.

Oliver Rackham's highly respected knowledge ensures this is a valuable reference book on the subject, and his clear writing skills make it an easy and fascinating read in its own right. It is beautifully illustrated with numerous maps and plans, some diagrams and a wealth of high quality photographs.

I initially borrowed this book from the library, but decided it was a must to own a copy. I now constantly dip into it for information, or just curl up and read it for pleasure.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasure to own and read 28 Jun 2011
By Peasant TOP 500 REVIEWER
I bought Oliver Rackham's original History of the Countryside, lent it to a close relative and never saw it again; expensive mistake! Someone, probably fed up with my long face, bought me the illustrated edition as a consolation prize, so I've read and owned both. It's hard to be objective choosing between the two in the circumstances, but I think I marginally preferred the original with its greater detail. Certainly the big, colour illustrations in this edition are a real pleasure, and ease one gently through a description and analysis which is far from trivial. However the abridged text sometimes comes across as rather terse, some of the richness of the writing in the original edition having been sacrificed for brevity. And the original edition isn't without illustrations; its just that here there is more colour, they are larger, and inset in the text.

Rackham arranges his book thematically. Chapter headings are:
Rural Detection; Animals and Plants; Woodland; Wood Pasture; Boundaries and Fields; Trees of Hedgerow and Farmland; Highways; Grassland and Heath; Moorland; Ponds, Dells and Pits; Marshes, Fens, Rivers and the Sea. Here the text broadly follows the original edition, and there is a bibliography of suggested further reading, and a detailed index at the back.

There are, in addition 8 annotated walks, which are like mini-field-trips, designed to let you see many of the features described in the book out there in the landscape. Unfortunately the book is rather too large and heavy to take with you, so you'd presumably photocopy the relevant pages before setting out.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Oliver Rackham is an excellent writer. He keeps you interested and your mind active throughout the book, stimulating thought and opinion.

The book is a must for all naturalists, ecologists, historians and anyone who has ever wondered why the British countryside is like it is or wishes to know more about our past or our way of life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem of a book 29 Mar 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a keen walker and very amateur naturalist I have more than a passing interest in the countryside. I'm into trees, birding, dragonflies, botany to mention just a few. Beyond that though, as I walk through the countryside, I'd like to understand how it has been formed. I've spent a lot of time wondering why things are like they are. Why does my local wood have large holes in the ground? why are some trees pollarded? why is that large nettle bed where it is and what is this ridge and furrow all about? It's all very well being able to identify birds and dragonflies and grasses and sedges, but there are far bigger mysteries out there to struggle with. Then I found this book. It goes some considerable way in explaining how the countryside has formed. Reading it has given me the considerable pleasure of being able to go out and solve a few mysteries.

I've owned this book for ages, in fact as a collector of books I have both paper and hardback editions. This is simply the finest book I've read on the subject by some considerable margin and Oliver Rackham is undoubtedly an absolute legend. Not only is this book a joy to read, it is an absolute mine of information. You will not find a better book. The very fact that Oliver Rackham books are so eminently collectable is testament to the genius of the author. Don't mess around, if you're interested in our fantastic countryside, then you have to own this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars lovely book superb condition
Superb book great price excellent book seller/book thankyou..:)
Published 1 month ago by martyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Learning is key
This little coffee table book will explain, an England that has been manicured to form the beautiful countryside we all love.
Published 10 months ago by Micky P
5.0 out of 5 stars Countryside questions
A fund of useful information; now I can understand what I'm looking at when I walk across the countryside; I've always been interested in social and industrial history and this... Read more
Published 20 months ago by E. J. Garrard
5.0 out of 5 stars Countryside and its history - the best book!
This is an excellent book, and one of those rare sources of knowledge which makes one want to read on, even into the small hours of the night. Read more
Published on 26 Feb 2011 by woodlander
5.0 out of 5 stars Authorative and Thought Provoking.
I've owned a copy of this book for some time and recently purchased another from Amazon as a gift to a friend who both works as a tree surgeon and teaches the subject. Read more
Published on 5 Dec 2010 by Kevin Dawson
4.0 out of 5 stars An illustrated history of the countryside
Book came in good condition - I've only bought it because I have to so can only review the content from an academic point of view, and it covers exactly the areas that i expected,... Read more
Published on 28 May 2010 by A. L. Chichester
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting and very informative
I bought this book for my brother at Xmas as he had asked for it which surprised me as he's a bit of a townie. However, he loved it! Read more
Published on 8 Jan 2010 by Mrs. A. M. Childs
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly brilliant
As the previous reviewer says, this is completely fascinating. I read the illustrated abridgement, and while I found it a page turner, it does read like an abridgement. Read more
Published on 5 Feb 2000 by Andrew Montford
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