Environmental politics, custom and personal testimony: memory and life space on the late Victoria Ashdown Forest, Sussex

Short, Brian (2004) Environmental politics, custom and personal testimony: memory and life space on the late Victoria Ashdown Forest, Sussex. Journal of Historical Geography, 30 (3). pp. 470-495. ISSN 03057488

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Abstract

The late Victorian period witnessed a growing concern for, on the one hand, environmental protection, and on the other, the ‘human fauna’, with their vanishing folk heritage, living on the margins of a capitalist rural economy. In connection with the Ashdown Forest legal dispute (1876–1882) over the common rights in this ancient Forest area in the Weald of Sussex, the young solicitor William Augustus Raper interviewed over 100 elderly residents to collect evidence of 60 years’ gathering of litter (bracken, heather, etc.). Their depositions reveal much about the ways in which local environmental politics were a constituent part of custom and economy on the Forest, and how such contested rights underpinned the more elite conservation movement at this time. Although gathered for a specific legal case, the evidence reveals much about the interrelations between late-Victorian peasant communities and their environments, but also much about the individuals, and their social, economic and spatial relations. The material is assessed for its relationship to similar 19th- and 20th-century sources and for its use within historical geography, and there is also a discussion of the potential and problems associated with the use of transcribed oral evidence and auto/biographical material more generally.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > Centre for Community Engagement
Depositing User: Brian Short
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2012 16:55
Last Modified: 30 May 2012 14:25
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/37078
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