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Archaeologia Cantiana - Vol. 127   2007 page 449

Book Reviews

country’s landscape in an attractively presented and well illustrated series edited by Neil Cossons. The division of England into eight regions, each containing numerous pays, presents a real challenge and one that may not be welcomed by all readers. The South-East volume, here reviewed, covers a large region that includes the valley of the lower Thames, thus including the Gateway, and stretches from east Kent to the Chilterns to embrace the chalk downs of Wiltshire and the eastern reaches of Dorset. But it is in the safe hands of Brian Short, of Sussex University, who has a strong and well-established reputation for clear and careful broad-brush studies of a more conventionally determined ‘south east’ as well as detailed studies of areas of the Weald, along with books on agricultural change in the twentieth century. He has produced a well-written and scholarly book marked by a geographer’s keen sense of change in landscape. Predictably, he is better informed on Sussex than other counties although the errors noted by this reviewer are few and of little significance.
   In the first chapter Short persuasively and provocatively argues that ‘many of the region’s landscapes … represent power and control over people, resources and space’ whether it be feudal lords and royal forests, church estates, close villages, castle builders of the past or the modern military appropriation of training grounds in Wiltshire. Reading the landscape, he implies, nevertheless can be a democratic process as it ‘is a document full of signs to be deciphered, allowing deeper comprehension of the societies that produced the palimpsest we now see around us today’. Thus those with detailed local historical knowledge, reinforced by regular walking over and feeling their area, are well equipped to interpret that landscape. With this book to hand, with its many stimulating ideas and pertinent illustrations, they will be greatly helped in that process. Landscape has often been described in broad sweeps, but relatively few local history societies have thought to produce specific and detailed studies of the changing landscape of their own area. This is surely a task well worth undertaking.
   Following the introductory chapter, the book is divided into three parts. The first, on ‘land and people’, details the environmental history, culture and topography of an ancient landscape and the process of peopling and settling the region. The second looks at ‘ways of life’, changes in the countryside and in urban living, with a chapter devoted specifically to London. The capital is so large, and has been so dominant for so many centuries, that a separate chapter on the metropolis and its influence on the south east’s landscape was essential. The third part is on the ‘south-east landscape as representation and inspiration’. The overall structure and approach that is adopted is one that seems to this reviewer to be a logical and sensible way of dealing with the subject, made more difficult given that it is such a large and rather unwieldy area of southern England. Topography helped determine early settlement (it still does although

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