Street Trees in Britain: A History (new book, October 2017)

As I was trawling the depths of the Oxbow Books store, which is an utter treasure trove of books on various matters (many pertain to trees, hedgerows, gardens, woodlands, forests and the broader concept of landscape ecology – notably from the imprint Windgather Press), I came across a new book, to be released later this year, by Mark Johnston, the author of Trees in Towns and Cities: A History of British Urban Arboriculture.

So what is the title of this book? If you paid attention to the title, you’d already know, though for the sake of clarification it’s Street Trees in Britain: A History. As regards a description of the text, taken from the publisher’s page:

The trees which line many of the streets in our towns and cities can often be regarded as part of a heritage landscape. Despite the difficult conditions of an urban environment, these trees may live for 100 years or more and represent ‘living history’ in the midst of our modern streetscapes. This is the first book on the history of Britain’s street trees and it gives a highly readable, authoritative and often amusing account of their story, from the tree-lined promenades of the seventeenth century to the majestic boulevards that grace some of our modern city centres.

The impact of the Victorian street tree movement is examined, not only in the major cities but also in the rapidly developing suburbs that continued to expand through the twentieth century. There are fascinating descriptions of how street trees have helped to improve urban conditions in spa towns and seaside resorts and also in visionary initiatives such as the model villages, garden cities, garden suburbs and new towns.

While much of the book focuses on the social and cultural history of our street trees, the last three chapters look at the practicalities of how these trees have been engineered into concrete landscapes. This includes the many threats to street trees over the years, such as pollution, conflict with urban infrastructure, pests and diseases and what is probably the greatest threat in recent times – the dramatic growth in car ownership.

Street Trees in Britain will have particular appeal to those interested in heritage landscapes, urban history and the natural and built environment. Some of its themes were introduced in the author’s previous work, the widely acclaimed Trees in Towns and Cities: A History of British Urban Arboriculture.

Retailing at £30, you can currently pre-order it for £22.50, which seems like a relative steal. I would strongly recommend that, if you are to pre-order it, you do so via the publisher here, which supports them directly and will enable them to continue to press more books of a similar nature. At the very least, they’ve got a pre-order through me, though given many who frequent this blog are from the United Kingdom, I hope they’ll receive more interest (I’m sure they will!) prior to the book’s publication.

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Street Trees in Britain: A History (new book, October 2017)

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