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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 September 2009
This is a book of marked contrasts. The first chapter, which focuses on the behavior of Rooks, could have been used as set of field notes for Mark Cocker's excellent book, Crow Country. The behavior described here, the gatherings and roosting of Rooks and the accompanying Jackdaws, seems almost identical to those seem in the Yare Valley by Cocker. This is one of the strongest examples of continuity with the current landscape that I have found in the series of books called "English Journeys".

A number of the other books in this series seem to stress the degree of the change that has occurred, rather than concentrate in continuity. The change that is central to this book is not one found in the physical landscape, but those which have occurred in the moral and ethical landscape. Throughout the book, even in the first chapter on rooks, the narrative concentrates, or at least alludes to, hunting - with guns, with nets and with ferrets. Hardly an animal is mentioned that is not hunted, either for the pot or to protect more favored creatures, that will themselves become the hunters target.

While it is clear that the author is fascinated with the Game Keepers gibbet, I am not sure that he is shocked by it. The type, and number, of predatory birds and mammals nailed to this particular cross is both remarkable and shocking in the context of today's landscape. Yet it is clear that the author is concerned about the welfare of the poor, the old and the destitute - but not the wild creatures of the countryside. His suggestion to reinstate the tithe system to provide for those who are unable to fend for themselves is clearly ahead of its time.

Concern for human rights (although such a term would not have been used in the 1800's) and concern for the environment now go hand in hand. This book is a clear indication that such connections did not always exist. Although the casual slaughter of animals portrayed in this book may not suit everyone, it is excellent example of the way in which the natural and the human were seen as separate in the past. Recommended.
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on 21 May 2015
very good
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