Thursday, 26 February 2015

Woodlands and The Ash Tree: a fitting tribute to Oliver Rackham

Following the death of leading historian and ecologist Oliver Rackham, Stephen Town pays tribute with the donation of two of Rackham's popular environmental titles.

Rackham, O, Woodlands and The Ash Tree, coming to the University Library soon

By Wozzy25, CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0
via Wikimedia Commons
Oliver Rackham died last week at the age of 75 after a lifetime’s contribution to the understanding of woodland and landscape. The Guardian newspaper featured an obituary summarising some of his most prominent work.

Rackham's work and writing was not only influential academically, it also informed modern woodland management practice, and challenged the received wisdoms about the history of forests in England. His approach brought together knowledge from a number of disciplines, including archaeology and history, and his first work was informed by Bishop’s archives from 1251, requiring a level of Latin not always common among scientists.

His view of woodlands as antiquities in themselves and an integral part of our civilization imbues his writings, and helped lay the foundations for a more scientific and meticulous approach to woodland conservation. His work extended to broader areas of natural history, ecology and landscape, and the Library has several copies of his History of the Countryside at XC 9.42; clearly on someone’s reading list at some point.

Photo: Woodland path by Mike and Annabel Beales
Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence
The Library, in fact, already has most of his works, including the majestic (and substantial) Ancient Woodland at XB 7, hidden amongst the science quartos behind the lift on the top floor of the Morrell. So, as a tribute I am donating two books to complete our collection of Oliver’s work: his last large scale book ‘Woodlands’, volume 100 in the New Naturalist series; and ‘The Ash Tree’ published last year, about one of this country’s most popular but now threatened  trees.

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