The Making of the English Landscape by W.G. Hoskins

In his pioneering book ‘The Making of the English Landscape’, W.G. Hoskins deals with the historical evolution of the English landscape, intending mainly to overcome the popular belief that the pattern of the land is a result of eighteenth-century enclosures; he instead attributes it instead to a much longer evolution. Tracing the development of the landscape from pre-Roman times until the modern industrial period, he identifies many of the formative influences on our landscape in an erudite and informative manner. Drawing together examples which he himself has collected and researched the author provides a unique insight into the historical make up of the countryside - although it must be noted that the account is not one of dispassionate science.

Professor Hoskins’ central assertion is that “most of the English landscape is a thousand years old” or more and that within any small area, influences from any time within this period can be observed. This claim is well backed up throughout the book, as Professor Hoskins’ field-work, aided by informative photographs and charts, demonstrates the extraordinary quantity of historical debris that lies beneath the surface of our society.

Professor Hoskins has a powerful love for many facets of the countryside and derides many of the more recent influences on the countryside especially those deriving from the Industrial Revolution which he feels have despoiled much of the beauty of the landscape. This expression of personal views rarely, however, interferes with the line of Hoskins’ argument and the book skilfully combines detailed examples with appropriate extrapolation.

Although there is a tendency for some areas of England to be more heavily studied than others, such as Hoskins’ home county of Devon, and the area around Leicester, this specialization does not detract from the intrinsic merit of the book, which is a thorough and ground-breaking account of the historical fabric of the English landscape presented in a very lucid style that makes it eminently readable both for now and the future.

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