300 pages, 24 b/w photos and b/w illustrations
The English Love Affair with Nature is a social history of natural history in England. It looks mainly at the last 200 years since Gilbert White and Thomas Bewick published their bestselling books, triggering a lasting 'love affair' between the English and Nature.
The book covers the origins of interest in nature with philosophy, religion, and art; the birth of the 'affair' with the Industrial Revolution; and its growth to the present day. Growth began with the animal cruelty movement; from it grew the RSPB and the conservation movement. Crazes for geology, fossil-hunting, dinosaurs, tales of jungle exploration and plant-hunting, and in the 20th century the enormous growth of birdwatching, followed in turn. The nation now consumes books about natural history, field guides, and nature films on TV, feeds wild birds, and eagerly visits nature reserves.
The English Love Affair with Nature furthermore includes a detailed timeline, list of personalities with dates, bibliography, and index.
“This book offers a delightful journey around the British imagination, with unexpected and thoughtful observations revealed in every passing meadow and hedge. I have really enjoyed reading this – Ian Alexander writes beautifully, and the book has an impressive scope. I like very much the blending of history (very smoothly told) and the personal observations.”
– Bill Adams, Moran Professor of Conservation and Development at the University of Cambridge
Part 1: SMITTEN
1 Cupid’s Arrows
Part 2: VIRGIN
2 Mediaeval to Early Modern
4 Newton’s Universe
5 Collecting for Pleasure
6 From the Sublime to the Romantic
7 Industrial Revolution
Part 3: IN LOVE
1 Escape into a Good Book
5 Collecting for Science
17 Nature Guides
Part 4: TAKING STOCK
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The author of a book about a nation’s love of nature cannot claim to know more about love than anyone else; nor more than a tiny part of nature. But Ian Alexander's lifelong love is in a way a miniature figure of how his country loves nature: first one way, then another, then yet another: and in multiple ways all at once. He became fascinated by the question of how, why, and when a whole nation fell in love: and why he himself did.
Ian was educated at Winchester and Cambridge, which may explain something. He was the lead author of three books on software engineering, contributed chapters to two others, and published many peer-reviewed articles. Apart from writing, he enjoys practical conservation work, gardening, photographing nature, reviewing books, giving talks, and even making cakes when the occasion demands.