Since time immemorial mankind has taken it upon himself to wage war against nature – against those species of birds and mammals which he believes conflict with his livelihood. This remarkable book is about that war of attrition against the native mammals and birds of England and Wales from the middle ages to the present day. There is widespread knowledge about the huge declines in popular species such as song birds, farmland birds, otters, and pine martens, however, there is less understanding about the deep-rooted causes of these losses, or about the complex relationship between mankind and these species.
Roger Lovegrove has undertaken years of unique research: by searching through parish records of 'vermin' trapped, hunted, and killed over the generations, he has revealed an unprecedentedly accurate and detailed picture of the history of a nation's wildlife, and of the often devastating impact and extinction that we have forced on our ecology. Consisting of species-by-species accounts, accompanied by beautiful, specially-commissioned illustrations, Silent Fields outlines the history – and often the future too – of a wealth of wildlife species, from badgers, bears and beavers, to wolves, kingfishers, the golden eagle and the humble house sparrow.
The geographical scope is British, but the subject will be of interest to conservationists around the world because of the unique historical material that will be included. The topic has enormous relevance today, as public concern about the environment rises, and controversies rage about hunting, wildlife management and reintroduction of ancient species.
1. Lost animals: early eliminations by Man
2. The social background to persecution
3. To kill a Rat or catch a Kite: methods of control
4. Killing in Scotland
5. In on the Act - searching the record
6. Birds - individual species accounts; (species accounts from the osprey to the kingfisher and house sparrow)
7. Mammals - individual species accounts; (covering species from the hedgehog and badger to the wild cat and pine marten)
8. Local patterns of persecution: England and Wales
9. The return of the natives
10. Modern control - legal and illegal
11. Vermin control and wildlife management: where next?
Appendix 1. Summary table of vermin payments extracted from churchwardens' documents
Appendix 2. Scientific names of species mentioned in the text
" [...] fascinating" [...]
"[A] thought provoking and carefully researched book."
– Country Life
"Silent Fields was the book that Lovegrove was born to write. His storytelling ability [...] shines through."
– Peter Ranscombe, The Scotsman (Critique)
"An amazing picture [...] "Ground-breaking" is a much-overused word, but Lovegrove's sweeping and meticulous research is for once genuinely that, endlessly fascinating as well as being elegantly written."
– Michael McCarthy, The Independent (Review)
"[An] excellent book."
– Fergus Collins, Focus
"The book is much more than a lament for abandoned nests and empty burrows [...] Silent Fields is a marvellously detailed, hedge-skimming history of rural Britain with all its moral contradictions and complexities."
– Richard Girling, Sunday Times
– Sunday Telegraph
"It's all fascinating stuff."
– Jeremy Hobson, Countryman's Weekly
"A fascinating and exhaustive study [...] Wide-ranging and meticulously researched, Silent Fields is undoubtedly an instant classic – a treasure trove of information about our ancestors' attitudes and their behaviour towards the realm of nature."
– Mark Cocker, BBC Wildlife Magazine
"[A] fascinating book [...] Silent Fields provides a remarkable analysis of the social history of wildlife and our changing attitudes to it [...] a scholarly yet readable account."
– Tim Birkhead, Times Higher Education Supplement