Geobrittanica: Geological Landscapes and the British Peoples

Geobrittanica: Geological Landscapes and the British Peoples

Geobrittanica: Geological Landscapes and the British Peoples

Geobrittanica: Geological Landscapes and the British Peoples


The Gulf of Corinth in central Greece is a superb natural laboratory for the study of processes and hazards close to an active plate boundary. The area is a key locality for understanding rift geological processes and is an ideal locale for training because of the excellent exposures afforded by rapid uplift and incision. Fully illustrated and complete with bibliographic references this is an essential part of the visiting geologist's field kit.


Interest in Britain’s landscapes and their geological foundations has probably never been greater, perhaps even more than during the explosion of late-Georgian/early-Victorian cultural and scientific exploration. in the day-to-day world, the language of geology is familiar: political events signal ‘tectonic shifts’ measured ‘high on the Richter scale of politics’; rumours signify changes in the ‘moving tectonic plates of party politics’; ‘fault-lines’ separate public opinion on major issues like devolution, national independence and eu membership; geological periods are used to mimic movie titles by naming great chunks of much-loved coastline as ‘Jurassic Coast’. Yet though our geological understanding has greatly progressed, the historian would rightly point to older records of tectonic, volcanic and meteorological events in classical works (like Tacitus’ Annals for example) and by the nature-curious scribe(s) of the later Anglo-Saxon Chronicles who recorded the extraordinary succession of strong earth tremors and storms that affected England in the early twelfth century.

Geology as the foundation to landscape was made clear to the mid-twentieth-century reader in books such as A.E. Trueman’s Geology and Scenery in England and Wales (1938, 1946); a pioneering classic written for ‘the educated layperson’ and in print as a popular paperback well into the 1970s. a book that first presented geological history in tandem with archaeology, arts and literature was A Land (1951; reprinted 2012) by Jacquetta Hawkes. a bestseller in its time, featuring sculptors and artists like Henry Moore and John Piper, it is now regarded as a classic. Hawkes presents a visionary view, an unashamedly and uniquely personal narrative of Britain’s geological history. This included the role that it played in her own psyche and, in her view, that of past and present inhabitants. Amongst more recent narrative efforts, R.A. Fortey’s The Hidden Landscape (1993; 2010) springs to mind; an affectionate and cultured pen-portrait. Also noteworthy is Death of an Ocean by Euan Clarkson and Brian Upton (2010) in which the classic geological landscapes of the Southern Uplands and Scottish Borders are explored in a scholarly but informally written manner using the context of the ‘lost’ Iapetus ocean.

On tv and in related books over the last twenty years Bill Bryson has explored the general character of the Island’s great outdoors and its cultural nexus in intimate and companionable ways. Latterly, geologist Iain Stewart has made fine tv documentaries for general audiences on both the foundations of geology and the pioneering geologists who did important fieldwork in Scotland. Archaeologists Neil Oliver and Frances Pryor have done the same for prehistory, providing rich and warm human tapestries from which to view the late-Pleistocene and Holocene epochs. We also applaud the wide vision of popular presenters in the visual arts, notably Lachlan Goudie’s landscape-inspired The Story of Scottish Art (BBC4, 2016).

Human influences on landscape history have had fine books written on the subject, beginning with W.G. Hoskins’ all-time classic The Making of the English Landscape (1955; reprinted 2013). It is clear . . .

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