Thomas Banbury publishes paper on the Social Dimensions of Landscape Change

This article is based on my undergraduate dissertation, completed at Durham University in 2020. Using previously unstudied letter collections in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust archives, I examine different reactions to the enclosure of Needwood Forest in Staffordshire in the late 18th century. In the article, I argue that different social groups opposing the deforestation attributed different meanings to the forest landscape. Gentry landowners and the literary circles of Stafford and Lichfield promoted the aesthetic and historical value of Needwood but were happy to benefit from the industrialisation of other areas. In contrast, the cottagers and farmers adjacent to the forest defended it in sound economic terms based on their historical common rights.

The article develops some of the methodologies, particularly reconstructing historical ecologies from literary sources, that I use in my PhD project. Where my current research focuses on perceptions of the atmosphere in late medieval and early modern England, this article uses a highly localised approach to understand changing relationships to the environment. The work of the PhD is to apply these methods more broadly and over a longer time period.

The article, ‘The Fall of Needwood’: Social Dimensions of Landscape Change in Eighteenth-Century Staffordshire, can be accessed here: