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Where Men No More May Reap or Sow

The Little Ice Age: Scotland 1400–1850

by Richard D. Oram



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ISBN: 9780859767170
Published: 02 May 2024
Format: Hardback
Extent: 576
Publisher: Birlinn Ltd
Imprint: John Donald
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About the Book

Drawing together the evidence of archaeology, palaeoecology, climate history and the historical record, this first environmental history of Scotland explores the interaction of human populations with the land, waters, forests and wildlife.

This volume spans 450 years that saw profound transformation in Scotland’s environment. It begins in the fifteenth century, when the ‘Golden Age’ of the early 1200s was but a fading folk memory in a land gripped by the gathering grimness of a ‘little ice age’. Colder, wetter, stormier weather became the new normal, interspersed with brief episodes of warmer but still moist conditions, all of which brought huge challenges to a society on the knife-edge of subsistence. Viewing the religious and political upheavals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries against the cycles of disease and dearth that were ever-present into the later 1700s, the book explores the slow adoption and application of the ideas of ‘Improvement’ and the radical disruption of Scotland’s environment that ensued. Reformation, revolution and rebellion were the background noise to efforts to subsist and succeed through a hostile age, in which Scotland’s environment was an adversary to be tamed, mastered and made ‘polite’. As the last, bitter decades of the ‘little ice age’ were ground out in foreign wars, forced clearances and potato famines, Scotland prepared itself to embrace the Industrial Age.

The Author

Richard D. Oram

Richard D. Oram gained an MA (Hons) in Medieval History with Archaeology and a PhD in Medieval History, both from the University of St Andrews. He is currently Professor of Medieval and Environmental History at the University of Stirling. A former Director of the Centre for Environmental History and Policy and member of the Historic Environment Advisory Council for Scotland, he is now a Trustee of the National Museums of Scotland.