Understanding the current state and dynamics of any forest is extremely difficult – if not impossible – without recognizing its history. Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF), located on the border between Poland and Belarus, is one of the best-preserved European lowland forests and a subject of myriads of works focusing on countless aspects of its biology, ecology, management. BPF was protected for centuries (15th-18th century) as a game reserve of Polish kings and Lithuanian grand dukes. Being, at that time, a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, BPF was subject to long-lasting traditional, multi-functional utilisation characteristic for this part of Europe, including haymaking on forest meadows, traditional bee-keeping and fishing in rivers flowing through the forest. This traditional model of management came to an abrupt end due to political change in 1795, when Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania ceased to exist in effect of partitioning by neighbouring countries, and the territory of BPF was taken over by the Russian Empire. The new Russian administration, influenced by the German trends in forestry, attempted at introducing the new, science-based forestry model in the BPF throughout the 19th century. The entire 19th century in the history of BPF is a story of the struggle between new trends and concepts brought and implemented by new rulers of the land, and the traditional perception of the forest and forest uses, culturally rooted in this area and originating from mediaeval (or older) practices.
The book will show the historical background and the outcome of this struggle: the forest's history in the long 19th century focusing on tracking all cultural imprints, both material (artificial landscapes, introduced alien species, human-induced processes) and immaterial (traditional knowledge of forest and use of forest resources, the political and cultural significance of the forest) that shaped the forest's current state and picture. This book delivers a picture of a crucial moment in forest history, relevant not only to Central Europe but to the continent in general. A moment of transition between a royal hunting ground, a traditional type of use widespread throughout Europe, to a modern, managed forest. Looking at the main obstacles in the management shift, the essential difference in perceptions of the forest and goods it provides in both modes of management, and the implications of the management change for the state of BPF in the long 19th century could help in better understanding the changes that European forests underwent in general.
Tomasz Samojlik is an environmental historian pursuing the goal of retracing the history of anthropogenic and natural forest changes in the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, including Poland’s Bialowieza Primeval Forest. He has an MSc in European studies from the University of Marie Curie-Skłodowska in Lublin and a PhD in biological sciences from Jagiellonian University in Kraków. His current research topics encompass (1) the history of exploitation and protection of BPF in the 19th century, (2) fire history of BPF, (3) past eco-cultural landscapes in the royal forests of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and their bio-cultural heritage, (4) man-wildlife interactions in the historical context. His work combines archival studies and archaeological excavations (in cooperation with the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw), with the analyses of the human impact on past forest ecosystems.
Anastasia Fedotova is a senior researcher at St. Petersburg’s Branch of the Institute for the History of Science and Technology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Her research interests incorporate (1) scientific knowledge in the rationalization of agriculture and forestry, (2) environmental history, (3) history of the life and earth sciences: plant ecology, applied botany, agricultural entomology, forest ecology, and soil science in the 19th and first half of the 20th century.
Prof. Piotr Daszkiewicz, dr habil. in biology and professor in humanities at the Institute for the History of Science, Polish Academy of Sciences, for many years connected with the Natural History Museum in Paris, currently working at Agence Française pour la Biodiversité combines his biological and historical background in his research. His studies embrace a wide variety of topics, from the history of natural sciences, through the history of research in Białowieża Primeval Forest and studies on European bison, history of natural collections and museums all around the world, to topics focusing on current and past Polish-French scientific collaboration. For many years, he published articles in Kultura, the most important Polish emigration journal edited by Jerzy Giedroyc.
Professor Ian D. Rotherham is the author of over 400 academic papers, popular and professional articles, books and book chapters, as well as 300 consultancy studies and reports, and over 300 newspaper features. He has broadcast on radio and television in Britain, the USA and in Europe, and writes regular columns for local and regional newspapers and has a regular BBC Radio Sheffield phone-in. He works and researches environmental, historical and tourism issues around the world, and chaos national and international meetings and committees. Along with his core ecological research, his pioneering work on the perceptions and history of alien and exotic species has been widely acclaimed. His research on landscape history has led to a groundbreaking handbook on ancient woodland heritage, and a series of books on wetland loss and the history of peat and peat cutting.