What was the state of wildlife in Britain and Ireland before modern records began? The Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife looks at the era before climate change, before the intensification of agriculture, before even the Industrial Revolution. In the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, beavers still swim in the River Ness. Isolated populations of wolves and lynxes linger in the uplands. Sea eagles are widespread around the coasts. Wildcats and pine martens remain common in the Lake District.
In this ground-breaking volume, the observations of early modern amateur naturalists, travellers and local historians are gathered together for the very first time. Drawing on over 10,000 records from across Britain and Ireland, the book presents maps and notes on the former distribution of 153 species, providing a new baseline against which to discuss subsequent declines and extinctions, expansions and introductions. A guide to identification describes the reliable and unreliable names of each species, including the pre-Linnaean scientific nomenclature, as well as local names in early modern English and, where used in the sources, Irish, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish and Norn.
Raising a good number of questions at the same time as it answers many others, this remarkable resource will be of great value to conservationists, archaeologists, historians and anyone with an interest in the natural heritage of Britain and Ireland.
Early modern natural history
Interpreting the sources
Trend since 1772
Geographical bias of top-quality records
Comparison with modern data
How to read the maps
Rabbits and hares
Petrels and shearwaters
Herons, storks and ibises
Gannets and cormorants
Waders, gulls and auks
Skates and rays
AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES
Groups that have expanded their range
Groups that have reduced their range
Problems with using the Little Ice Age as a baseline
Index and glossary of species names
Lee Raye is an associate lecturer at the Open University and a Fellow of the Linnaean Society specialising in the history of wild animals and plants in pre-industrial Britain and Ireland. Their translation of Robert Sibbald’s (1684) Wild Plants of Scotland and the Animals of Scotland was published in 2020.
"Indispensable for historians of natural history, environmental historians, and anyone interested in heritage and the natural world in Britain and Ireland. Valuable also for analysis of past taxonomy. Highly recommended."
– Anna Marie Roos, Professor of the History of Science and Medicine, University of Lincoln
"A stonker of a book."
– Iolo Williams, naturalist and TV presenter
"Our wildlife is in a state of flux. Spend time with this book and you will see how much we have already changed it. There is a treasure trove of information here, with meticulously researched maps and a detailed, highly readable text. I had no idea there were 'citizen science' wildlife surveys in the seventeenth century. Now, along with a wide range of other sources, they have been put to good use in this wonderful, absorbing book."
– Ian Carter, author of Rhythms of Nature and The Hen Harrier's Year
"This book is a treasure trove for the curious naturalist and the next best thing in the absence of a TARDIS for discovering our wildlife of days long past. Lee's exhaustive research has paid off to create a tome that I'm sure will be a key reference text for ecological historians and nature restorationists alike."
– Pete Cooper, naturalist and wilding ecologist
"It's really good and exceptionally well informed. Buy it. Relax. Enjoy."
– Derek Gow, author of Bringing Back the Beaver
"This is a work of scholarship and I for one am very grateful that the author carried out all this work and presented the results so clearly."
– Mark Avery, environmental campaigner and author of Reflections