Interpreting the Landscape: Landscape Archaeology and Local History

Interpreting the Landscape: Landscape Archaeology and Local History

Interpreting the Landscape: Landscape Archaeology and Local History

Interpreting the Landscape: Landscape Archaeology and Local History


Most places in Britain have had a local history written about them. Up until this century these histories have addressed more parochial issues, such as the life of the manor, rather than explaining the features and changes in the landscape in a factual manner. Much of what is visible today in Britain's landscape is the result of a chain of social and natural processes, and can be interpreted through fieldwork as well as from old maps and documents.Michael Aston uses a wide range of source material to study the complex and dynamic history of the countryside, illustrating his points with aerial photographs, maps, plans and charts. He shows how to understand the surviving remains as well as offering his own explanations for how our landscape has evolved.


This book is written for those who want to know about the English landscape, whether they are archaeologists, historians, geographers or anyone interested in our past, and for all those who may wish to do some local history research, a parish survey or a local study. It draws attention to recent research and studies in the English landscape and shows how these are relevant to the local researcher’s own interests. It attempts not only to review recent literature and articles (sometimes published in obscure places) and to make available more widely and easily the ideas contained within them, but also to develop some new ideas, clarify current knowledge and ideas and show how research is proceeding. Its aim is to throw some light on the complicated processes that have shaped the English landscape.

Furthermore, it is hoped that it will make those engaged in all aspects of local research think more deeply about their studies and begin to see them against the wider background of landscape studies. There is a tendency to look at particular or individual landscape features and see only details, but we need to think more about involved historical and natural processes and look at examples of how other places have developed elsewhere. This may teach us something about our own area of study. Attention will also be drawn to those aspects of sites and features in the landscape which have not previously been fully appreciated—features


I have taken the opportunity of a reprint of Interpreting the Landscape to correct errors in spelling, references and so on, drawn to my attention by reviewers and readers. The publishers, and in particular Peter Kemmis Betty, have kindly allowed me to update the bibliography and references to include material published up to Spring 1992 and I hope this aspect of the book, which proved so useful in the original edition, will therefore continue to be of value.

Such is the pace of research into the history of the landscape in Britain that a completely revised edition of this book will be necessary in a few years time. which are common enough but generally overlooked in the text books, like pillow mounds and duck decoys.

Many text books published today tend to give the impression that the author has personally carried out the huge amount of research needed to compile the volume; alternatively, the reader is bombarded with pages of indigestible references. In this book I hope to have adopted a more honest approach. It is an amalgam of the research of many people and, wherever possible, I have credited individuals with their work in the text. In general, my own research has covered the Midlands (Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Oxfordshire) and the West Country (Somerset, Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire); for other areas I have had to rely on the research of colleagues, for which I am most grateful.

The bibliographies for each chapter do not give all the relevant references on the subject. What I have tried to do is to direct the reader to the most significant and important books and articles, which will in turn lead to a multitude of further papers. These bibliographies should be regarded as a door to further, more detailed, studies.

Finally, I hope this book is written in a style most people can understand. I have tried to make it easy to read, but if at times it seems direct, personal or even colloquial, this is because it is my job to communicate by teaching and this is the way language is used today.

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