Preliminary Programme

Wed 12 April
    08.30 - 10.30
    11.00 - 13.00
    14.00 - 16.00
    16.30 - 18.30

Thu 13 April
    08.30 - 10.30
    11.00 - 13.00
    14.00 - 16.00
    16.30 - 18.30

Fri 14 April
    08.30 - 10.30
    11.00 - 13.00
    14.00 - 16.00
    16.30 - 18.30

Sat 15 April
    08.30 - 10.30
    11.00 - 13.00
    14.00 - 16.00

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Wednesday 12 April 2023 11.00 - 13.00
U-2 RUR03 Connecting Social History with Environmental Sciences: the Reclamation of Exmoor Project
Västra Hamngatan 25 AK2 133
Network: Rural Chairs: -
Organizer: Henry French Discussants: -
Moderators: -
Leonard Baker : Internal Colonialism on Exmoor, c. 1818 – 1880.
In recent years, studies of landscape change in nineteenth-century Britain have begun to explore the role of colonial ideologies in shaping agricultural ‘improvement’. The work of scholars such as Iain McKinnon has shown how acts such as the Highland Clearances rested upon imposing systems of ‘domestic colonisation’ that held striking ... (Show more)
In recent years, studies of landscape change in nineteenth-century Britain have begun to explore the role of colonial ideologies in shaping agricultural ‘improvement’. The work of scholars such as Iain McKinnon has shown how acts such as the Highland Clearances rested upon imposing systems of ‘domestic colonisation’ that held striking similarities with the dispossession of native peoples enacted across the Empire. This paper, therefore, investigates contemporaneous efforts to ‘civilize’ and ‘improve’ Exmoor. The ‘reclamation’ schemes conducted by the Knight Family between 1818 and 1880 provide an opportunity to assess the discourses, deployment, and socio-environmental impacts of ‘internal colonialism’. During this period, local landscapes, customary agricultural practices, communities, flora and fauna were systemically denigrated, dispossessed, and remade. Exmoor was recast as a ‘void and empty space’, with its ‘hostile’ soil a reflection of the economic inefficiency and moral turpitude of local cultivators. In contrast, the ‘foreign’ farmers recruited from Lincolnshire or Scotland by the Knights to replace ‘native’ populations became ‘heroic’ settlers bringing civilization to a barbaric wilderness.
As in many regions, the ‘colonisation’ of Exmoor had long-term consequences for local biodiversity. Understanding how ‘internal colonialism’ was culturally perceived, discursively legitimised, and materially deployed is thus vital to ongoing conservation efforts. (Show less)

Henry French : Tenant-Farmers and the Reclamation of Exmoor, 1840-1886.
Although John and Frederick Knight initiated the reclamation of Exmoor, the task of creating profitable farms fell to the tenant-farmers in the years after the end of John Knight’s ‘demesne-farming’ experiment in 1840. The first generation of farmers, recruited by the Knights and their agent Robert Smith, struggled with the ... (Show more)
Although John and Frederick Knight initiated the reclamation of Exmoor, the task of creating profitable farms fell to the tenant-farmers in the years after the end of John Knight’s ‘demesne-farming’ experiment in 1840. The first generation of farmers, recruited by the Knights and their agent Robert Smith, struggled with the terrain, climate, unfinished buildings, rent arrears and lack of capital. C.S. Orwin’s history of the reclamation process charted a few of their successes and many of their failures, but it raises the question of the place of Exmoor in the farming careers of these incomers. Why did these farmers and their families move from the English Midlands to take on new farms carved out of an inhospitable terrain, lacking in infrastructure, roads and housing? What happened after they gave up the unequal struggle on Exmoor? The paper seeks to place their experiences on Exmoor in context of their origins and backgrounds, and tries to track their subsequent histories. The focus of the ‘Reclaiming Exmoor’ Project is to explain why and with what ecological, agrarian and social consequences, farmers impacted Exmoor. This paper reverses this perspective, and explores what impact the reclamation effort had on the farmers who attempted it. (Show less)

Ralph Fyfe : Historical Knowledge and Contemporary Landscape Management
Spaces such as Exmoor are viewed with increasing interest by policy makers concerned with addressing a range of wicked environmental challenges that face our current society. These include the potential of these spaces to do things for us such as mitigate climatic change, either through programmes of restoration on ... (Show more)
Spaces such as Exmoor are viewed with increasing interest by policy makers concerned with addressing a range of wicked environmental challenges that face our current society. These include the potential of these spaces to do things for us such as mitigate climatic change, either through programmes of restoration on peatlands, or extensive tree planting. Such modern interventions have the potential to have lasting impacts on the character of these rural environments. Good, sustainable, decision making for land management should integrate historical knowledge to understand the trajectories by which the current landscape has been configured, and the social and ecological processes that were involved in this. This paper will reflect on the changing role of historical knowledge in conservation, using the “Reclaiming Exmoor” project as a lens. Rather than project Exmoor as a damaged tabula rasa waiting to be restored back to some fictional notion of natural ecological functioning, it will be argued that a biocultural heritage approach can provide a new way of generating positive landscape change. (Show less)

Francis Rowney : Nineteenth-Century Agricultural ‘Improvements’ Transformed Moorland Ecosystems on Exmoor: Insights from Palaeoecological Analyses
Moorlands are nationally and internationally important landscapes, particularly in areas with spatially-extensive peatlands. These areas can provide a range of ecosystem services, including climate change mitigation, water supply and cultural services, but many are considered degraded as a result of human activities (e.g. burning, peat-cutting, drainage, overgrazing). On Exmoor, restoration ... (Show more)
Moorlands are nationally and internationally important landscapes, particularly in areas with spatially-extensive peatlands. These areas can provide a range of ecosystem services, including climate change mitigation, water supply and cultural services, but many are considered degraded as a result of human activities (e.g. burning, peat-cutting, drainage, overgrazing). On Exmoor, restoration activities are often aimed at reversing the effects of nineteenth-century agricultural ‘improvement’ schemes, but these schemes and their impacts are not yet fully understood. To develop this understanding, long-term ecological context is essential. Palaeoecological analyses of biological remains preserved in moorland peat, such as pollen and fungal spores, provide a window into past ecologies. By combining this with historical analyses, we are developing this long-term understanding.
Preliminary findings indicate that changes in land management associated with nineteenth-century agricultural ‘improvement’ may have rapidly altered moorland ecosystems on Exmoor. These changes and their ecological impacts were spatially and temporally non-uniform, and occurred in the context of more gradual, centennial-scale processes. (Show less)



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