The history of the British flora : a factual basis for phytogeography


The history of the British flora : a factual basis for phytogeography

Sir Harry Godwin

(Cambridge science classics)

Cambridge University Press, 1984

2nd ed.

  • pbk.

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Previous ed.: 1956

"First paperback edition 1984" -- T.p. verso

Bibliography: p. 503-521

Includes index



The chief aim of this book is the reconstruction of the processes and events that have determined the present flora and vegetation of the British Isles, first of all through the long ages when natural conditions prevailed and cycles of glaciations and recessions and slow geological processes were in charge, and afterwards through the nearer and much shorter span of time during which, from the Neolithic onwards, human interference has progressively and severely altered the scene. This is an exercise in biogeography that Darwin called 'that grand subject, that almost keystone to the laws of nature'. But instead of adopting Darwin's conjectural approach, based largely on circumstantial evidence, what this 1975 second edition achieves is a factual reconstruction of events by records of the actual presence of individual species or genera, in large numbers, at particular sites and specified times through the geological and historic record.


  • Prefaces
  • Part I: Introduction
  • Part II. Collection and Identification of Plant Remains: 1. General considerations
  • 2. Seeds, fruits and leaves, etc.
  • 3. Wood and charcoal
  • 4. Pollen as an index of presence
  • Part III. The Background Scale of Pleistocene Events: 1. Glacial and interglacial periods
  • 2. Radiocarbon dating
  • 3. The Weichselian
  • 4. Flandrian geological events
  • 5. Climatic changes
  • 6. Mire stratigraphy
  • 7. Biological evidence
  • 8. Archaeology
  • 9. Pollen analysis
  • 10. Primary divisions of the last fifteen thousand years
  • Part IV. Recorded Sites: 1. General comments
  • 2. Scottish sites
  • 3. Irish sites
  • 4. Site record
  • Part V. The Plant Record: 1. Introduction: explanation of conventions
  • 2. Collected records
  • Part VI. Pattern of Change in the British Flora: 1. Floristic chances in the Tertiary period
  • 2. The Ice Age and the interglacial periods: climate, soil and vegetation
  • 3. The early Pleistocene
  • 4. The Cromer Forest bed series
  • 5. The Corton interstadial and the Hocnian stage: middle Pleistocene
  • 6. The Ipswichian interglacial
  • 7. Galcial stages: early and middle Weichselian
  • 8. Glacial stages: late Weichselian
  • 9. Phytogeographic synopsis
  • 10. Floristic history in the light of Weichselian records
  • 11. The beginning of the Flandrian period: the pre-Boreal period
  • 12. The early warm period: the Boreal period
  • 13. The thermal maximum and the Atlantic period
  • 14. Prehistoric husbandry and the sub-Boreal period
  • 15. The sub-Atlantic period and climatic deterioration
  • 16. Regional differentiation, migration and survival
  • Part VII: Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index.

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