The Transformation of Rural England

BookThe Transformation of Rural England

The Transformation of Rural England

Farming and the Landscape 1700-1870


July 2nd, 2002



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This is the first book to study in detail the making of the rural English landscape in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For decades historians have debated the nature, timing and even the existence of the 'agricultural revolution'. This book approaches the debate from a new direction: that of landscape archaeology. It argues that there was not one 'agricultural revolution' but many. The enclosure of open fields and the reclamation of heath and downland - spearheaded by aristocratic improvers and large capitalist farmers - mesmerised contemporaries. But most enclosures had little to do with the improvement of arable farming, large landowners played a minor role and the really revolutionary changes took place elsewhere, in parts of England which were not characterised by large estates, and were the work of tenant farmers rather than landowners.

Tom Williamson's scholarly, yet eminently readable, account ... The Transformation of Rural England is a book which raises many questions and answers them in a highly satisfying way crossing the boundaries of traditional academic disciplines ... Williamson stimulates our interest and challenges our preconceptions. The book makes first-class reading for anyone interested in the changing rural economy and landscape of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Parson Woodforde Society Quarterly Journal, Vol. XXXV, No.3, Autumn

This is a book full of facts and ideas that is ideal for the student or those with a genuine interest in the subject rather than those who want a simple version of what occurred. It was not a simple story to tell.
The London Naturalist, No.81

Williamson provides a text remarkable for the breadth of its scholarship, its clear understanding of the scientific principles underlying some of the changes he describes, and (relatively rare in agrarian history texts) its sound and practical common sense. […] It raises many questions and provides many answers; it is both scholarly and accessible, and besides promoting debate among specialists it will offer a stimulating experience for all those interested in countryside history. Williamson manages to bring to life many of the themes and topics which for too long have slumbered in indigestible form in the ranks of academic journals and weighty, overprice books.
R. J. Moore-Colyer, The Agricultural History Review, Vol. 50, Part II

... a serious contribution to the study of landscape history.
Landscapes, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring

The adoption of modern design and production concepts makes this a physically attractive book, and this accessibility is matched by the skills of the author. Ever ready to sweep aside institutionalised humbug and fads, Williamson shows that the place to discover landscape is within it rather than by number crunching in an air-conditioned environment.
Landscapes, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring

... a very able and accessible writer.
Landscapes, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring

... the works of an author who is a noted specialist in his field.
Landscapes, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring

... well-produced and inviting.
Landscapes, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring

This book offers a very wide-ranging and authoritative overview of the changes in rural England over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Journal of Southern History and Society

... he goes well beyond any narrow academic boundaries in his coverage.
Journal of Southern History and Society

... one of the most important contributions of this book is the stress which Williamson lays on the regional variations which occurred.
Journal of Southern History and Society

What is presented here is a well-balanced coverage of all the country. He argues persuasively for a series of agricultural revolutions.
Journal of Southern History and Society

Williamson marshals a wide range of evidence and presents it to good effect.
Journal of Southern History and Society

This is a thoughtful and well-written book, which I can recommend wholeheartedly both to the amateur historian seeking background knowledge for a local study and to the professional looking for an authoritative survey of the existing literature. ... All will find stimulation in this book, not least from Williamson’s own views and interpretations even if, at times, they may wish to challenge them.
Journal of Southern History and Society

This is a thought-provoking book, pleasing but teasing ... [a] stimulating book.
Rural History, Vol. 14, No. 2

Williamson is well known for his landscape histories... In The Transformation of Rural England he not only makes good use of his own primary research, but he includes an impressive variety of secondary sources. This makes for a superior reference work, introduction to the topic, and scholarly contribution.... Few historians could pull off a comprehensive survey of he agricultural revolution in England, and Tom Williamson is one of them.
Matt Osborn

Author Information

Tom Williamson is lecturer in landscape history at the University of East Anglia and has written widely on agricultural history, landscape archaeology and the history of garden design.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
List of Figures
List of Maps
List of Tables
Publisher’s Note
1. Woodlands, Forests and Parks
2. Landscapes of Colonisation
3. Lines in the Landscape
4. Routeways
5. Status, Authority and the Landscape
6. Landscapes of Belief
7. Villages, Hamlets and Farmsteads
8. Reading the Fieldscape
9. Defence in the Landscape