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The Illustrated History of the Countryside Paperback – 12 May 1997

4.7 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Paperback, 12 May 1997
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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New edition edition (12 May 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857999533
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857999532
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 1.7 x 28 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 727,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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 the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

A fascinating companion guide to the true story of Britain's countryside

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
This is as close to an essential text as you get if you are interested in the development of the English Countryside and current state of the Environment in the UK. Written with the clear authority of excellent research, but presented in a way which is highly accessible, this is a model of both scholarship and style. After introducing the research methods used by the book it book addresses aspects of the landscape such as fields, woodlands and moorlands on a chapter by chapter basis. However, the book always manages to maintain a coherent picture of these aspects within the wider landscape. The origin and nature of the British Countryside is swathed in many myths and factoids - this book goes a very long way to addressing these. As the other reviews have said - it comes highly recommended.
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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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By Peasant TOP 500 REVIEWER on 28 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I first picked this book up, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. Yes, it had won the Angel Literary Award, and had had HEAPS of great critical feedback, but honestly, I couldn't really...see the point of it. The history of Britain's countryside; did I really think that that was a topic which was worth devoting a book to? No. Well, I can tell you now that Rackham hasn't only devoted a book to it. He has devoted one of the longest books...EVER WRITTEN to it. Seriously, the text is so small in relation to the size of the pages that I'd calculate that an ordinarily set out fiction book would be around eight hundred and eighty pages long if it contained as many words as this one!
So, what of the content of the book itself? Well, it's very definitive. Rackham covers every British habitat, describing how each has changed since the end of the last Ice Age. As he does so, he scours the archives for any and every literary source he can find to help him with his historical documentation. You can tell that this guy went to Cambridge University. He references all of his sources very professionally, compiling a neat list of them at the back of the book. In fact, his research has been so extensive that there are over SIX HUNDRED references! He really has tried his utmost best here to give us a complete record of how our countryside has been shaped through history. Nevertheless, history of every guise is always going to be incomplete, and in this book, you really can feel those gaping holes screaming at you from the pages. However, I'm beyond nit-picking there, and those historical gaps are most certainly not Rackhams' fault. So yes, on the whole, I have nothing but praise here. Also good to see is the way in which Rackham writes it.
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