Since at least the 18th century Scotland has been the centre of forestry knowledge in Britain. Many foresters and botanists trained on Scottish estates went into the colonial service in during the 19th century and what they brought with them was a unique set of forestry skills. This paper examines the influence of Scottish foresters on the development of empire forestry in British India. Scottish-trained foresters aided the adaptation of continental forestry models, mainly German and French, to the Indian conditions, drawing on their experience gained in Scotland. Returning from their service in India they went on to advocate the creation of a forestry service in Scotland, which resonated with landowners who believed that forestry would make the Highlands more productive.
This podcast is the registration of a seminar talk given by Jan Oosthoek in the School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, 22 March 2013.
“Where You Are Now” by Zapac Available from ccMixter
Large forest plantation in the Scottish
Highlands. Photo: Jan Oosthoek
By the end of the nineteenth century, Scotland’s woodlands were reduced to about six per cent of land cover. Over the course of the twentieth century, foresters worked to establish timber reserves in the Scottish Highlands, creating forests on marginal lands that were not easily adapted to forestry following millennia of deforestation. Using a variety of techniques and strategies drawn from modern forestry practices, the Scottish uplands were afforested in the twentieth century, tripling the forest cover. The creation of new forests to serve strategic and economic interests, however, altered the ecology of the Scottish uplands and eventually came into conflict with the interests of environmentalists in the late twentieth century.
This fascinating history of the afforestation of the Scottish uplands is explored in a new book by environmental historian Jan Oosthoek called, Conquering the Highlands: A History of the Afforestation of the Scottish Uplands. This episode features an interview with the author Jan Oosthoek of this book and he talks about the largest environmental transformation of the Scottish Highlands in the 20th century.
Links & sites mentioned in the podcast
Download Conquering the Highlands as a free e-book from the ANU Press website.
Buy a print copy of Conquering the Highlands from Amazon.
Nature’s Past podcast
“Lark in the Morning. The Atholl Highlanders” by Sláinte
Available from freemusicarchive.org
“Scotland the Brave” by Shake That Little Foot
Available from freemusicarchive.org
The creation of a conventional classroom based environmental history course is challenging because of the diversity of topics involved. A distance learning course in environmental history delivered trough the Web is even more challenging. This requires a different approach to integrate written material, audio, video, map material and online datasets and to put it in a coherent package to make it relevant to the context of each student. This edition of the podcast features Richard Rodger, Professor in Social and Economic History at the University of Edinburgh, who talks about a new distance learning masters programme in Landscape, Environment and History. This interview is followed by an audio extract from a video lecture about Scottish forest history to illustrate the type of content that the masters programme has on offer. Jan Oosthoek talks in this interview about the importance of land management agencies such as the British Forestry Commission in influencing the appearance, nature and use of the landscape in modern times.
Website mentioned in this podcast
MSc in Landscape, Environment and History – University of Edinburgh (link and MSc programme are no longer active).
“Piano Sketch 01” by Mario Mattioli
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This episode of the podcast returns to Scotland for a look at the environmental history of Flanders Moss, a raised peat bog west of Stirling. John Harrison, a historian from Stirling, reveals why the moss is the product of millennia of human use and exploitation. In addition he will address the questions what the moss looked before human intervention, why large parts of the moss were cleared during the 18th and 19th centuries, and some of the environmental consequences of the clearance. The podcast will also dispel the myth that the moss was once an impassible barrier, with Stirling Bridge the only place where it could be crossed. Finally, the history of Flanders Moss during more recent times, including a proposal to mine the peat to fuel a power station, and its role in the 21st century as the largest raised bog in lowland Scotland will be briefly discussed.
Website mentioned in this podcast: SNH NNR page
Around 1850 Britain had no forestry service and there was no formal training of foresters. Forestry was still practised in the context of estates mainly owned by the aristocracy and managed by foresters who had learned the traditional management techniques under an apprentice system from their predecessors. British forestry was fragmented, not formalised, and far from centralised during the entire 19th century. Most of the forestry remained concentrated on large privately owned estates, especially in Scotland, where it served the double purpose of ornamental woods and, to a lesser extent, wood production for local use.1The British Government and many landowners did not feel the necessity to increase timber production and introduce modern formalised forestry practices from the continent because the British had direct access to the large timber reserves of their Empire, of Scandinavia and the Baltic states. Importing timber from overseas was much cheaper than to produce it back home in Britain.2 Continue reading
Richard Oram, Director of the Centre for Research in Environmental History, University of Stirling, talks about recent developments in Scottish Environmental History. Issues discussed include how the Scottish landscape is not as natural as it appears and has been exploited for at least hundreds of years; the transformation of land management practices; energy resource management, including wood, peat and coal and how people responded to fuel shortages in the past; woodland management; the organisation of the landscape into Davochs and urban environmental history.
Location of Glen Roy
Just South of the Great Glen next to Loch Lochy is a valley situated that is world famous among the geography, geomorphology and geology communities in the world. It also takes a signicant place in the history of Science. The name of this valley is Glen Roy and it derives its fame from a geologic phenomenon that is known as the “Parallel Roads”. Today it is one of the lesser known Natural Nature Reserves in Scotland because of its relative isolation and poor access, but in the past it has been a battle ground between conservationists and foresters. This short essay charts its importance and why it became a source of conflict during the 1950s. Continue reading
This paper on the perceptions of Scottish forestry was presented at a research seminar of the Department of History of the University of Stirling on 24 February 1999. The theme of this seminar was “Environmental History: Interdisciplinarity and Where this Leaves History”. Continue reading