The Peopling of Britain: The Shaping of a Human Landscape

The Peopling of Britain: The Shaping of a Human Landscape

The Peopling of Britain: The Shaping of a Human Landscape

The Peopling of Britain: The Shaping of a Human Landscape

Synopsis

'Includes much to stimulate and inform future research.' -Northern History'The contributions are well written and excellently coordinated into one by the Editors, to provide an interesting and useful volume with a somewhat different approach. Particularly important are the 'Comment' sections which link the various contributions into a very readable whole.' -The Environmentalist'Perspective is the operative word for this book: it is very fruitful both for pointing up substantive historical issues and for illustrating the respective contributions of so many historical methods from environmental archaeology to demography.' -Antiquity'This is a valuable collection of the latest work and a book that will interest historians as well as geographers and archaeologists.' -Contemporary Review'Immigration is the day's most dangerous and divisive concern, which makes this cool, studious, apolitical little book all the more precious... if ever you find yourself reading a Daily Mail polemic on immigration and thumping the table uncontrollably, stretch for this volume and restore your sanity with a long view of history.' -Country LifeWritten by acknowledged experts in different fields - archaeology, history, and geography - in accessible form, this is an account of the evolution of human settlement in Britain over the last half-million years and its impact on the landscape from the beginnings to the present day. It reviews the way in which, over the centuries, the evolving human presence in Britain has shaped the British landscape and how, in turn, the British landscape has moulded the development of British communities.

Excerpt

From the beginnings of human settlement the small marginal fringe of western Europe that eventually became the British Isles has represented a final frontier for successive waves of colonists—each bringing its own set of cultural adaptations and its own ethos into the landscape. Over time both landscape and culture have matured from raw frontier to settled centre, moulded by the advent of agriculture, towns, and industry, and by streams of migration both within Britain and from outside. the chapters in this book, together with some of the comments which followed their original delivery as lectures, trace the various phases of that process, showing how much of the story has only recently been unearthed, and how much remains to be discovered.

The period surveyed is necessarily a very long one, and it is significant that successive chapters cover an increasingly narrow span of time, from the half a million years of the first chapter to the 150 of the last. That is partly a function of the historical record, which shifts from the scattered evidence of archaeology to the plentiful records of modern social surveys. But it is also a reflection of the accelerating pace of change, particularly in the past millennium, as increasing density of population, urbanization, and the manipulation of new sources of energy and wealth reshaped both culture and environment. in the process Britain shifted from being marginal, on the outer edge of human developments whose focus lay elsewhere, to being central: in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Britain was the originator of changes which have transformed the globe since then.

That is one story, familiar enough in outline, but examined from new perspectives in the later chapters of this book. But there is also a second story, completed very much earlier, and forming the theme of the early chapters of this collection. It lies in the initial peopling of Britain by humans, and the stages by which biological evolution was replaced by cultural evolution as the main motor of change.

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