Saving the People's Forest
Open spaces, enclosure and popular protest in mid-Victorian London
Author: Mark Gorman
Price: £16.99 (free postage)
“The recent pandemic has brought a renewed appreciation of the value and importance of open green space to public health and well-being. In this light we would do well to remind ourselves of the sometimes complex and even brutal campaigns of the past that ensured those spaces remain available to us today. We should also note that they often only succeeded because diverse communities pulled together towards a common purpose. Gorman's book provides a meticulously researched and readable example of such a campaign.”
About the book
“Mark Gorman's book on the campaign to save Epping Forest fills in all sorts of historical gaps and ought to be essential reading for anyone trying to build a cross-class and multicultural environmental movement in this time of climate crisis.” Luke Turner (writer, editor and curator)
“This book is… a well-researched study of a topic (the effects of the Enclosures Act) which has resonances widely in local history.” Steve Pollington, Essex Journal
“[Mark Gorman] provides an inspiring account of the ability of popular protest to overcome established and entrenched rights in the face of what appeared to be immovable opposition – it is clearly of considerable historical interest, but also, perhaps, an important message for our own times. Although the City of London rightly gets the credit for its legal action towards saving the forest for the public, it is unlikely that anything would have been achieved without the mighty groundswell of public support and direct action.” Michael Leach, The Local Historian
“Without the campaigns to preserve urban open spaces in the nineteenth century, London’s landscape, and that of many other British cities for that matter, would look very different. Saving the People’s Forest tells the story of just one these local campaigns, but highlights how these campaigns link to broader themes of rights, land, urban growth, and political reform.” Hannah Awcock, Landscape History
“This is a nicely produced and illustrated volume from the University of Hertfordshire Press. Moreover, it draws together some key themes in the history of public access struggles, demonstrating their importance for a mid-century culture of platform politics existing in defiance of liberalism.” Antony Taylor, Cultural and Social History
The growth of nineteenth-century London was unprecedented, swallowing up once remote villages, commons and open fields around the metropolitan fringe in largely uncontrolled housing development. In the mid-Victorian period widespread opposition to this unbridled growth coalesced into a movement that campaigned to preserve the London commons. The history of this campaign is usually presented as having been fought by members of the metropolitan upper middle class, who appointed themselves as spokespeople for all Londoners and played out their battles mainly in parliament and the law courts.
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In this fascinating book Mark Gorman tells a different story — of the key role played by popular protest in the campaigns to preserve Epping Forest and other open spaces in and near London. He shows how throughout the nineteenth century such places were venues for both radical politics and popular leisure, helping to create a sense of public right of access, even ‘ownership’. At the same time, London’s suburban growth was partly a response to the rising aspirations of an artisan and lower middle class who increasingly wanted direct access to open space. This not only created the conditions for the mid-Victorian commons preservation movement, but also gave impetus to distinctive popular protest by proletarian Londoners.
In comparing the campaign for Epping Forest with other struggles for London’s commons, the book highlights influences which ranged from the role of charismatic leaders to widely held beliefs regarding the land, in which the rights of freeborn Englishmen had been plundered by the aristocracy since the Norman conquest.
Mark Gorman reveals a largely hidden history, since ordinary Londoners left few records behind, but his new research clearly reveals how their protests influenced the actions of the more visible elite groups who appeared in parliament or in court.
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ISBN: 978-1-912260-41-6 Format: Paperback, 176pp Published: May 2021
Contact us at UH Press if you have any queries or would like to find out more about this book.