304 pages, 16 colour plates, 41 b/w illustrations, 7 tables
This book provides a new perspective on a striking and famous feature of the English landscape, Dartmoor.
In the middle ages intensive practical use was made of its resources. Its extensive moorlands provided summer pasture for thousands of cattle from the Devon lowlands, which flowed in a seasonal tide, up in the spring and down in the autumn. How was the grazing organised when so many of the people who wished to use it were peasant farmers living many miles from the moor?
In the later middle ages the Crown, manorial lords and Dartmoor farmers provided a service of keeping the cattle, gaining substantial revenues from the cattle owners who were pleased to pay for the care and feed of their animals. By contrast, in the early middle ages, Harold Fox's evidence shows that the lowlanders migrated with their cattle and lived on the moors in the summer.
This book describes, for the first time, the social organisation and farming practices associated with this annual transfer of livestock. It presents evidence for a previously unsuspected Anglo-Saxon pattern of transhumance.
His scholarship is meticulous; his knowledge of medieval documents, his skill in reading them (literally and in a deeper sense), and his understanding of context are skilfully deployed to answer a series of questions germane to his overall theme. This book is his masterwork; it is without question one of the most original contributions to the medieval history - and landscape history - of Dartmoor and Devon written in recent years. It is also an important contribution to the study of medieval transhumance in Britain.
- Andrew Fleming, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology, University of Lampeter, Wales
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