Robert A. Lambert. Contested Mountains: Nature, Development and Environment in the Cairngorms Region of Scotland, 1880-1980. Cambridge: White Horse Press, 2001. xviii + 310 pp. $75.00/Â£40.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-874267-44-7.
Reviewed by Angus J. L. Winchester (Department of History, Lancaster University)
Published on H-Environment (April, 2002)
This welcome addition to the literature on the recent environmental history of Britain is an exhaustively detailed study of the interplay between tourism, conservation and landownership in one of the most popular tourist areas in Scotland.
The ten substantive chapters explore the history of tourism in the Cairngorms from the 'discovery' of mountain scenery in the late eighteenth century to the mass tourism of the later twentieth; the evolving debate over access to the mountains; and the multi-faceted development of conservation as a land-use strategy. Specific topics include detailed histories of the osprey and its re-introduction at Loch Garten, Glenmore National Forest Park and the Cairngorms National Nature Reserve, and the abortive attempts to establish a Cairngorms National Park. The theme of conflicting aims and aspirations for the 'contested mountains' of the title runs as a thread throughout the book. Conflict arose not only between the different constituencies (landowners versus hill walkers; conservationists versus tourists) but also between official bodies (the Forestry Commission versus the Scottish National Parks Working Party) and between groups pursuing similar goals (skiers versus mountain climbers, for example). The complexities of these debates are skilfully unravelled, even if the reader is sometimes left reeling by the abundance of abbreviations and acronyms!
To my mind, the book's main weakness lies in what is omitted, rather than what is here. The chapters explore in turn each of the external social and cultural pressures on the mountain environment of the Cairngorms but nowhere is there a comparable survey of the economic activities (crucially livestock farming and forestry) which generated and maintained the landscape over which the debates over access and conservation raged. The landowners and their agents are key players in the dramas described by Lambert, yet we learn little about the changing economics and policies of estate management across the century covered by the study.
That criticism ought not to detract from the wealth of detailed analysis of the topics Lambert has covered. Throughout, the text is underpinned by impressively painstaking research in a wide range of archives. This is, indeed, a meaty empirical study - an excellent example of the type of detailed research without which wider interpretations of the relationship between society and the environment cannot be made. Both author and publisher are to be congratulated for making the fruits of Lambert's doctoral research available to a wide audience so quickly. We need more local studies such as this if we are to understand fully the historical processes which lie at the heart of the relationship between humanity and environment.
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Angus J. L. Winchester. Review of Lambert, Robert A., Contested Mountains: Nature, Development and Environment in the Cairngorms Region of Scotland, 1880-1980.
H-Environment, H-Net Reviews.
Copyright © 2002 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.