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A History of the Native Woodlands of Scotland, 1500-1920

A History of the Native Woodlands of Scotland, 1500-1920

T. C. Smout
Alan R. MacDonald
Fiona Watson
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 434
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  • Book Info
    A History of the Native Woodlands of Scotland, 1500-1920
    Book Description:

    The first modern history of Scottish woodlands explores the changing relationship between trees and people from the time of Scotland’s first settlement, focusing on the period 1500 to 1920. Includes 69 illustrations, in both b/w and colour.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3756-0
    Subjects: Geography

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Chris Smout, Alan MacDonald and Fiona Watson
  4. List of black and white maps
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. List of black and white figures
    (pp. x-xi)
  6. List of colour plates
    (pp. xii-xii)
  7. List of tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  8. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    We need to start with a few explanations and definitions. ‘Native woods’ are those which are composed predominantly of tree species that have arrived in the Scottish landscape unassisted by human hand. A full list of native trees is given in Table 1.1. That list does not include a few species of introduced broadleaf that have been here for many centuries, like the sycamore and beech, though these have sometimes now naturalised themselves in the native woods. Nor does it include the exotic conifers that were planted across the countryside from the eighteenth century onwards, but especially in the twentieth...

  9. Chapter 2 The extent and character of the woods before 1500
    (pp. 20-44)

    The notion of an ancient Great Wood of Caledon that in Roman times covered most of Scotland, or at least the whole of the Highlands, runs ineradicably deep in the Scottish mind.¹ The story is based partly on the positioning of ‘Caledonia Silva’ in Ptolemy’s second-century ad geographical account, available on printed maps in western Europe from 1475, though it occupies variable space: Waldseemüller’s edition of 1513 has it in less than half the area of Blaeu’sAtlasof 1654 (see Fig. 2.1).² Ptolemy’s account was in turn based on information supplied by the Roman invaders and also written up...

  10. Chapter 3 The extent and character of the woods, 1500–1920
    (pp. 45-76)

    It is evident from the last chapter that at the end of the Middle Ages Scotland felt herself to be in some senses short of wood – certainly short of the kind of large timber necessary for great construction projects on land and sea. The wood of Scotland is ‘utterly destroyed’, declared Parliament in 1503, probably reflecting at least the king’s vexation in not being able to get his hands on the supplies he needed for his castles and ships. The tone of legislation in the next two centuries was consistently anxiety-ridden. Acts of 1535, 1607 and 1661 enjoined the planting...

  11. Chapter 4 Woodland produce
    (pp. 77-101)

    The economic importance of wood in early modern Scotland was immense. No building from the grandest castle to the smallest home could be constructed or furnished without it. No boat could be built or wheeled vehicle made without wood. No tool or agricultural implement could be fashioned, no fence made to protect crops or stock, no fish or other food packed for keeping, no baskets made of any strength, no mine sunk below the ground, no machinery devised for milling, draining, spinning or weaving, that did not utilise wood. Even nails and locks might be of wood.Wood products were the...

  12. Chapter 5 Woodland as pasture and shelter
    (pp. 102-123)

    As some of the examples of wood use in the last chapter remind us, there was more to woodland than the production of wood. For many tenant farmers and cottars, especially in the Highlands and the Uplands, the main use of wooded areas was to provide pasture and shelter for stock. It is quite impossible to find a Scottish wood, either in the Highlands or the Lowlands, at least before the nineteenth century, from which domestic animals were excluded, except sometimes on a temporary basis. The woods evolved with grazing stock, and the distinction between a wood and a wood...

  13. Chapter 6 Trading and taking wood before 1800
    (pp. 124-156)

    Because of the customs dues charged at Scottish and foreign ports, we know much more about the extent of the import of wood from overseas than we do about the trade in home-grown timber within Scotland. It is worth sketching the main features of this European supply into Scotland, in order to give another context and perspective to our account of how local Scottish wood was used, obtained and marketed.

    Evidence from both documentary and archaeological sources shows that as international trade developed and Scottish supplies of good-quality oak became harder to find, timber was imported. In the fourteenth and...

  14. Chapter 7 Managing the woods before 1770
    (pp. 157-191)

    The first sustained run of records relating to woodland management in Scotland are those of the Cistercian abbey of Coupar Angus in Perthshire between 1471 and 1558.¹ They are worth looking at closely, for they probably reflect much earlier medieval practice for which the evidence has disappeared: conversely, they show a management approach that was to continue in many respects until after the middle of the eighteenth century.

    Several woods on the monastic estate are mentioned, but the most important were those of Campsie, on a pleasant and profitable grange on the banks of the Tay, where the abbot had...

  15. Chapter 8 Outsiders and the woods I: the pinewoods
    (pp. 192-224)

    Much of the focus of this book so far has been on local use and short-distance trade. Within the period 1600–1850, however, external demand, sometimes arising from a market hundreds of miles away, became an increasingly important factor in determining how the woods were used. This demand was often, though by no means always, mediated through individuals with no connection to the communities who had hitherto used the woods. Such entrepreneurs were English-speaking Lowland Scots, Irishmen or Englishmen, but their usual theatre of operations was the Gaelic-speaking Highlands, a circumstance which seems to give a quasicolonial flavour to events....

  16. Chapter 9 Outsiders and the woods II: charcoal and tanbark
    (pp. 225-257)

    The native species of broadleaf trees, as a group, have always been far more numerous and widely distributed than the conifers, despite the attention given to Scots pine as quintessentially the Scottish tree and undisputed queen of the mythical Caledonian forest.¹ However, whereas the attraction of Scots pine to the outside world was as building timber, broadleaf trees were mainly influenced through external markets by the demand for charcoal for smelting iron, and the demand for bark for tanning leather and hides. Oak beams and boards were certainly carried significant distances for building, especially of royal palaces and warships in...

  17. Chapter 10 Woodland management in an industrial economy, 1830–1920 and beyond
    (pp. 258-289)

    In the course of the nineteenth century, the woodland cover of Scotland, as officially recorded in various inquiries and censuses, did not vary greatly, though it varied somewhat.

    These statistics were described as ‘quite unreliable’ by M. L. Anderson,¹ and though the quality improves from the 1880s they cannot all be true, or at least cannot all be using the same definition of woodland. For example, the figures for 1894 and 1904 respectively imply a planting rate of 38,000 acres and 20,000 acres a year over the previous three years, whereas contemporary estimates of planting rates at this period are...

  18. Chapter 11 Rothiemurchus, 1650–1900
    (pp. 290-318)

    At this point in our account, the focus changes to consider much more closely how management decisions worked out on the ground, in four case studies of a chapter each: one is in the heartlands of the ancient pinewoods of Strathspey, one in the far north, one in Argyll and one on Skye. In each case, market forces from outside unleashed big changes. None of the consequent management responses was a good model for sustainability, but the impact varied according to location and climate as much as to market opportunity. Of the woods that we consider, the most famous and...

  19. Chapter 12 The Navy, Holyrood and Strathcarron in the seventeenth century
    (pp. 319-339)

    If small pockets of pine on the islands in Loch Assynt in Sutherland are to be discounted as ancient woods, as Steven and Carlisle have argued, then the county of Ross possesses the two most northerly surviving ancient Scottish pinewoods, at Rhidorroch, on a catchment flowing westwards into Loch Broom, and near Strathcarron, flowing eastwards into the Dornoch Firth (Map 12.1). We are concerned here with the latter: for Rhidorroch, see pp. 205–6 above.¹

    The exploitation of Strathcarron is age-old. Barbara Crawford has cogently argued that the Vikings were drawn south into the area by their need to secure...

  20. Chapter 13 The Irish and Glenorchy, 1721–40
    (pp. 340-363)

    Ever since James Lindsay’s work in the 1970s, it has been cogently argued that the commercial exploitation of timber in the West Highlands, far from exacerbating the extent of woodland destruction, might rather have had a beneficial effect through the introduction of more systematic and effective management strategies.¹ Nevertheless, perceptions of the deleterious effects of large-scale external or landlord-driven enterprises in the area have a long history and still find credence today; so long as any such exploitation has taken place, there have been those who, for all number of reasons, have desired to point the finger of blame at...

  21. Chapter 14 The MacDonald woods on Skye, 1720–1920
    (pp. 364-387)

    The value of the woods of Sleat, the southernmost of Skye’s many peninsulas, has long been recognised. As early as 1463, John, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles, with the consent of his council, granted Sleat to his natural brother Celestine and entailed it to his heirs male by ‘Finvola’, the daughter of Lachlan MacLean of Duart, in return for the service of a ship of eighteen oars.¹ The charter includes the usual formulaic list of things pertaining to the lands, includingsilvis(woods). As well as this standard form, the charter includes the telling itemquercis(oaks)....

  22. Chapter 15 Conclusion
    (pp. 388-403)

    Were the native woods of Scotland managed sustainably? At first sight, obviously not, as they suffered a crashing decline. From covering half or more of the land surface 5,000 years ago, they were in steep retreat from the Bronze Age onwards, much of the land was open when the Romans appeared and the next 1,500 years saw further loss. No doubt the graph, if we had one, would fluctuate, but the Middle Ages end with a shortage of large timber, the rise of imports and start of legislative concern about felling and planting. By 1750, we suggest (in an upward...

  23. Bibliography
    (pp. 404-421)
  24. Index
    (pp. 422-434)
  25. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)