Throughout the ages man has struggled with his perceived place in the natural world.
For how would have civilization progressed, if not by the clearance of the forests, the cultivation of the soil, and the conservation of wild landscape into human settlement?
Yet what of the healing powers of unexploited nature, its long-term importance in the perpetuation of human civilization, and the inherent beauty of wild scenery?
"Between 1500 and 1800 there occurred a whole cluster of changes in the way in which men and women, at all social levels, perceived and classified the natural world around them," explains Keith Thomas.
Thomas seeks to expose the assumptions beneath the perceptions, reasonings, and feelings of the inhabitants of early modern England toward the animals, birds, vegetation, and physical landscape among which they spent their lives, often in conditions of proximity which are now difficult for us to appreciate.
It was a time when a conviction of man's ascendancy over the natural world gave way to a new concern for the environment and sense of kinship with other species.
It must give way to fields and pastures, which are of more immediate use and concern to life." Shortly thereafter, in 1763, Edwin Lascelles pronounced the "The beauty of a country consists chiefly in the wood." People's relationships with animals were also in the process of dramatic change as seen in their growing obsession with pet keeping.
Preserving the environment, saving the rain forests, and preventing the extinction of species may seem like fairly recent concerns, however, Man and the Natural World explores how these ideas took root long ago.