This book completes a trio of planned works at different spatial scales: that of the country (Britain), an internal landscape type (moorlands) and now the whole globe. The timescale has been the same in all of them: the last 10,000 years. When people ask, ‘what are you writing?’, and you tell them, then the usual reaction is one of amusement, qualified by a nod in the direction of the poor old fellow's age. They may well be right but, inspired by some other attempts at ‘big’ history, I wanted to try. As Chapter 1 shows, I want to move the writing of environmental history further in the direction of inclusiveness. I believe that the natural sciences are very important but they are not the whole story because they sit in the type of social framework analysed by the social sciences and the humanities. Hence there is reference to a wide variety of work in this volume. Beyond that, I have no methodological ambitions: I do not think that there is a ‘right’ way to write environmental histories.
Any book has to be selective: it would be impossible to mention even every outstanding example of the processes that have been chronicled, and so those included comprise both the obvious and the eccentric. Some cannot be ignored, while others result from trawls through the literature or, increasingly, a period of surfing the net.