Last exit from main street.

“For if the entire history of landscape in the West is indeed just a mindless race towards a machine-driven universe, uncomplicated by myth, metaphor, and allegory, where measurement, not memory is the absolute arbiter of value, where our ingenuity is our tragedy, then we are indeed trapped within the engine of our self-destruction.”

Simon Schama.

“Landscape and Memory”1995:14

Alfred A, Knoff New York


Deconstructing the Royal National Park – 8. A major social transformation

The next bit we need to be aware of is the importance of the transformation from a Royal mode of social life (based on some notion of a divine right) to the rise of the modern Gentlemen (with a right to rule based on other more ‘secular’ considerations).

In other words, how one elite were replaced by another elite.

We can trace this out with the material of Schama – from a Court based on knights who could hunt with the king to the new English gentlemen who, as has been already mentioned, did not have courts but solitary country estates. The sources of their social position lay elsewhere, even if ownership of land continued to be a marker of their place in the scheme of things.

Schama says, of the hunt:

“Outside of war itself, it was the most important blood ritual through which the hierarchy of status and honor around the king was ordered…It may not be too much to characterize it as an alternative court where, free of the clerical domination of regular administration, clans of nobles could compete for proximity to the king. Not surprisingly, the offices of Masters of the Horse and Hunt were fiercely competed for and jealously preserved within the family. And since the dominant weapon of Norman arms was the mounted knight,  the hunt served as an apprenticeship in martial equestrianism for young nobles…From beginning to end …the hunt was not merely a kill that gave potency and authority to the aura of the royal warlord, it was also a ritual demonstration of the discipline and order of his court.” (page 145)

“…the churchmen forbidden from hunting and therefore excluded from the king’s mounted retinue.” (P 145)

“During the first half of the eighteenth century a regulating role (in relation to oak-BR) for the Crown seemed out of the question. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 had, after all, established a parliamentary monarchy presumed to support, rather than infringe on, the interests of the propertied aristocracy…Parliamentary statutes were much more likely to reinforce, than to weaken, the property rights of the Whig aristocracy, who had, after all become the heirs of the Norman and Angevin forester-hunters – their mastery of the county hunts symbolising their political and social supremacy.” (page 165)

(“Silva, or a Discourse of Forest Trees” John Evelyn 1664.) “The book had originated in a request to the Royal Society from the Crown commissioners of the navy for a fresh plan for replanting timber trees. Evelyn was one of four Fellows of the Society approached for ideas, and asked to make a digest of all their proposals along with his own. The learned editor, however, quickly turned author…Silva may still be the greatest of all forestry books published in English…”(p 159)

“In point of fact, it was the fifth edition , published in 1776, long after Evelyn’s death, which, as we shall see, would truly revolutionize British sensibilities about the woodlands.” (p. 162)

(Note – 1600s – 1664-67 Dutch English, shift to French English end of 1600s – Heart of Oak bulwark of liberty standing between ‘freeborn Englishmen and Catholic slavery and idolatry” page 163. BR)

(Note – Seven Years war against France – need for hull and mast timbers – 1763 “Heart of Oak: the British Bullwark” Parliamentary report. BR)

(War with France 1793) “And with each ship of the line blown out the water by the enemy’s broadsides, British lords of the Admiralty and Jacobin citizen commissioners searched desperately for the next two thousand oaks … that could replace it.” (p 180)

“…their British competitors were combing the empire for supplies to make up the shortfall in native (British- R) forests.” (p181) (Canada, brazilwood, Cape stinkwood, New Zealand kauri Sierra Leone teak. But great rivers of NE Europe flowed into Baltic…)

“…the physician Dr Alexander Hunter published a new edition of John Evelyn’s Silva in 1776…Though Hunter looked to the Crown to rouse what was left of the spirit of patriotic planting, he was also enough of a pragmatist to realise that the fate of the British woods would be decided not by the king but by his aristocracy…So he must have been gratified by the subscription list (at two guinea a copy), dominated as it was by the greatest and grandest among the Whig nobility…The duke of Portland …two copies … the marquis of Rockingham, usually associated with the opposition Whigs, proclaimed his oaken patriotism by ordering no fewer than five … James Boswell … the Anglo-Dutch banker James Hope … the dukes of Argyll, Atholl, Buccleuch, Beaufort, Grafton, and Devonshire and the earls of Egremont,  Cholmondeley, Radnor,  and Pembroke. Obviously, subscriptions to the Hunterian Silva was a requirement of fashion.  But among this roll call of landed magnates and political grandees were many who, as the Royal Society of Arts’ prize lists indicate, had already become the pioneers of planting programs on their estates.” (page 169)

Unpacking all of this – with its dense interplay between social formations, economic factors, and fashion may take some time and effort. The alignment of a market place mentality (capitalism) and the emerging modern nation-state is a process which takes many centuries to come into full maturity.

The there is a shift in the unconscious-in-culture, cosmology, world-views, values from Feudal times to a new arrangement, which may be best termed a plutocracy.

Deconstructing the Royal National Park – 7. Right Royal precedents?

Experts in the field of genocide and ethnocide (e.g. Clastres) have said that those processes are first of all perfected ‘at home’ and then applied to other peoples’ lives overseas.

While these violent acts takes a most physical form, it also resides at the conceptual level, and that can be a very subtle form indeed.

Dr Mosley’s draft work draws attention to the influence of Henry Thoreau.

Similar suggestions for area protection were made by Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) who,  like the colonists in Australia, saw the royal parks of England as a precedent – in this case not the urban park but the royal forest hunting parks of the countryside established by the Normans (such as ‘High Peak Forest’ and ‘The Forest of Dean’). After witnessing the cutting down of forests in Maine Thoreau wrote in his journal (published in the Atlantic Monthly in August 1858  and posthumously republished in The Maine Woods (Thoreau, 1864)), that: “the kings of England formerly had their forests “to hold the king’s game” for sport or food, sometimes destroying villages to create and extend them, and I think they were impelled by a true extinct”, and went on to ask:

Why should not we, who have renounced the king’s authority, have our national preserves, where no villages need be destroyed, in which the bear  and the panther, and some even of the hunter race, may still exist, and not be “civilised off the face of the earth.” – our forests, not to hold the king’s game merely, but to hold and preserve the king himself also, the lord of creation, –   not for idle sport or food, but for inspiration and our own true recreation? Or shall we, like villains, grub them all up, poaching on our own national domains?

 Thoreau’s works were particularly influential on the conservationists who followed him.  (Dr Mosley Appendix C p 34-35:)

The misquote of “extinct” for “instinct” may be more accurate than intended. (Google up Thoreau for original – in google books.)

Simon Schama has already covered much of ground in what happened with the Norman invasion and I can do no better than to quote him.

“Landscape and Memory”

Simon Schama

1995 Alfred A, Knoff New York

(Anglo-Saxon times)

“For there were people in the woods: settled, active, making a livelihood out of its resources, a robust society with its own seasonal rhythms of movement, communication, religion, work, and pleasure. Even the broadest forests were laced with cart tracks, footpaths, and trails which to its adepts were as familiar as Roman roads. The network of tracks ran through a landscape in which town dwellers might become quickly disoriented, but to those who lived there it was mapped with distinctive landmarks…” (page 143)

“And the trees themselves were not all of a sameness, either in maturity or density (let alone species). Much of the forest, even in the Middle Ages, was already being managed as a special kind of micro-economy for its inhabitants. Hardwoods were cut at regular twelve-year intervals four to six feet from the ground, sufficiently high to prevent deer from eating the new shoots. The base “stool” would then be left to regenerate itself rapidly into the kind of light timber that could be used to meet all manner of essential needs: fencing, wattling, tools and implements. The result was an underwood, or coppice, that was the distinctive mark of the medieval forest and which in a very few locations, like Hadfield and Hadley Chase, can still be seen in England.” (page 143)

Schama continues:

” In contrast to the ancient forests of Germany and Poland and to the conifer woods of the Scottish Highlands and the oak forests of the English aristocratic estates – all products of the eighteenth and nineteenth-century crazes for picturesque and Romantic  “improvements” – these ancient woodlands seem thinner and almost patchy , with swather of grassy meadows and wild flowers blooming between pollarded and truncated broadleaf trees. The exact opposite of what is now considered to be an ideal norm of forest habitat – the untended wilderness – they have light and space and variety: a working room for an authentic woodland culture.” (ibid)

“And the wild animals of the chase often shared the woods with the domesticated livestock pastured by the cottagers.  Cattle, horses, sheep, and even goats (though they were voraciously destructive of saplings and young coppice shoots) grazed the underwood and any clearings caused naturally by the fall of old trees.” (ibid)

“The mark of these western woodland societies was not their separation from, but their connection with, the rest of the world…” (Page 144)

“The greenwood, then, was not an imaginary utopia, it was a vigorous working society. And it was just because the English woods were home to all this busy social and economic activity that the imposition of the Norman concept of forest seemed so brutal. For even given the exaggerations of medieval chroniclers, there is no doubt that, institutionally, the imposition of forest law was a violent shock. It fundamental principle, originating in Frankish custom, was the creation of huge areas of special jurisdiction, policed at the king’s pleasure and by his direct appointment, for the preservation of game. The nomenclature “forest” that now replaced the older Latin terms of saltus or silva was in all probability derived from foris, or “outside.” It signified not a particular type of topography but a particular kind of administration, cut off from the regular codes of Roman and common law. Such “forests” could and were imposed on large areas of the English countryside, including the entire county of Essex, that were not wooded at all, and which included tracts of pasture, meadow, cultivated farmland, and even towns. For the first century of Norman rule there “forests” made up something like a quarter of the entire territory of the realm, and during this period the kings, especially Henry II, seemed eager to “afforest” lands at will.” (page 144)

“The Normans put in place the essential elements of the regime: the lord wardens of each royal forest, with their keepers and “garcons” appointed to apprehend malefactors against the vert and venison… But it was under the Angevin kings that the forests reached their greatest extent territorially and their laws were most seriously enforced.”  (page 145 – 146)

Deconstructing the Royal National Park – 6. People in parks

The process of imperial colonistation can be compared with a kind of meta-cloning, which seeks to knock out the indigenous cultural core from the ecosystem, suppress it, and forcefully insert the alien culture (and keep it in place).

We need to keep this in mind when non-indigenous people raise the example of “people” having a place in national parks – if then proceed to exclude First Peoples from the picture (using past tense) and seek to promote people who share the writer’s entirely Western idea of what kind of ‘people’ should be found in National Parks.

In the forthcoming work by Dr Geoff Mosley, which traces the rise of the conservation movement in Australia, there is mention of how that movement’s cultural hero Dunphy saw humans as part of nature. (draft chapter 4, page 16). This is contrasted to others who argued for the protection of areas of land without any people.

 The various viewpoints expressed during the 1945-46 split over the Kosciusko Primitive Area issue are of interest in relation to the future of wilderness conservation. In essence, Dunphy and the NPPAC argued that not only do bushwalkers do no harm to nature in primitive areas but they have a natural disposition to be protective of it. Marie Byles (1945 and 1946) expressed the view that to preserve nature so that mankind might enjoy it was selfish. Even though, as she conceded, the bushwalkers would not ruin it they would have some effect and there would inevitably be demands for tracks and huts even though roads and motorists were excluded.

At the level of fundamental differences in this debate Myles Dunphy saw humans as a part of nature, returning to it and benefiting in health and education from the experience, whereas Marie Byles viewed nature as a separate living thing with ’rights  of its own’ and saw leaving primitive areas completely alone as a way of compensating for the damage humans were doing elsewhere. They were at one in believing that primitive areas could contribute to a more general change in human attitude to nature. What they differed on  was how they could do this.

But which people and which cultural practices? There is no mention of Dunphy seeking to ensure that indigenous people should be recognised as part of the country he was seeking to preserve.

And there was an earlier United States precedent for such inclusion with the work of Caitlin in connection with the early Yosemite park. More on this later.

But first we have to deal with some history stemming from the Norman invasion in 1066 (and all the subsequent invasions which followed from that).

A note on ‘park’

Middle English park, blend of Middle English parrokparroke “enclosed space” (from Old English pearroc “enclosure”) and Old French parc, of Germanic origin, from Proto-Germanic*parruk (“fence; enclosed tract of land”). Akin to Old English pearrucpearroc “enclosure, enclosed land; fence” (English paddock), Old High German pfarrih “fencing about, enclosure” (German Pferch “enclosure for sheep, sheepfold”), Middle Low German perk “park”, Dutch park. More at paddock