So what was Hoskins' Landscape story?



If we dissect his thesis—based on the state-of-the-art of the day—then it is this. The making of the English landscape begins to all intents and purposes in the historic period: the prehistoric, indeed for large parts of England even the Roman, contribution was minimal. Hoskins argued, for instance, that it was the Anglo-Saxons who undertook the clearance of the primaeval woodlands that covered lowland England.

Secondly, Hoskins looks for continuities rather than discontinuities—the modern village sits, he muses, on the same site at its Celtic predecessor. Both these approaches serve only to concertina the history of the landscape: it is both long (in the sense that it extends beyond what is immediately around us) and short (because it can be encapsulated in the last two millennia). Where there has been change, this has been slow and evolutionary (at least before the eighteenth century), a landscape characterized by stability rather than flux. And it is for these reasons that Hoskins can claim that a single view can capture landscape history in its totality.

In its way, The Making of the English Landscape is a deeply political work. Hoskins detested modernity: the twentieth century had added nothing, he believed, but ugliness to the English landscape; bureaucrats (by which he meant ‘planners’) were ruining the countryside; barbed wire and suburban development were defacing the pastoral scene and atomic bombers were drowning out the song of the skylark. The future was not bright, the past the final refuge. For the mid-twentieth century conservation lobby, The Making offered a powerful manifesto.

No wonder, then, that in 1962 (seven years after the publication of The Making) the Local Authorities (Historic Buildings) Act sought to strengthen provisions for listing buildings of the type Hoskins celebrated, or that six years later the Town and Country Planning Act changed listing in favour of preservation.

Unsurprising too, given Hoskins holistic view of the landscape, that in 1967 the Civic Amenities Act paved the way for the creation of Conservation Areas where the wider setting of historic buildings and architectural ensembles began to be recognized as worth of legal protection.

Or to jump a few decades why, in the wake of their destruction, statutory protection was provided for hedgerows in 1997.

Layer upon layer of legislation has been laid out over the landscape, Hoskins landscape, in the name of heritage protection: the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979; the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; the National Heritage Act 1983; and after 1990 the infamous planning policy guidance documents PPG15 and 16; and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.