Eating the Wild: from the lost primeval forests of Europe to Robin Hood



Used to be covered in these dense wet deciduous forests which is very different from what we see today where really hardly any of this primeval force exists anymore for her book feasting. Wild jeanneret actually visited one of the last tiny slivers of European primeval forest. It's in Poland. And it really is just a shadow of its former. Self Europe's forests were so vast that actually we think that the root of the word wilderness came from descriptions of these places the roots of the words wild and wilderness. I'll go back to untamed animals. The forest was a place. Teeming WITH ANIMALS UNGOVERNED BY HUMAN HANDS UNGOVERNED BUT NOT UNTOUCHED FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS. Europeans would go into the forest to find dinner day all kinds of animals wild boar venison there is something called the RMC which is the precursor to domesticated cattle. There was for a spice in moves the animals so abundant here. That really there was no form of hunting restriction it was abundant but it was also really valued killing a huge wild animal and then being able to share it was a sign of how wealthy and powerful you are. King said to have lots of wild game. At all their banquets. Animals would be breezed in rosewater and spices. Sometimes they would be covered in gold leaf and brought to the table hole and kind of carved up in front of the guests so while it was very much a form of status for kings so by the Middle Ages Those Morris. Were already starting to shrink between one thousand. Ad and thirteen hundred thirteen hundred. Europe's population grew by about fifty million people and all of those people needed to eat so there was increasing. Need to cut down the forests in order to grow grain and various crops and then also would was used for everything it was used for building houses and making carts by the fourteen and fifteen hundred. Europeans began sailing around the world. They first set forth to trade and then to stake their claim on foreign lands is colonialism spread across the globe. There was demand for very large old growth trees to create the ship. Masts that were needed and as early as the eleventh century The demand for wood was really threatening the forest where these kings went out and hunted the game meat that was so important to their diets and their status. Gina races that originally European forests had mostly being treated as common land. Anyone could hunt there. But as far back as ancient Rome the elite had sat down laws saying yes anyone could hunt but only as long as they weren't trespassing sort of by Default European kings and noblemen were the ultimate owners of the forest so as European king started to see their game meat being threatened by the need for Forest Land Day set out some very similar conservation measures whereby the king really restricted access to hunting in his forest. This is really the beginning of modern conservation lives whereby people were kept out of the forests. It's weird to think of royalty preserving their hunting grounds and keeping out the poor folk as the blueprint for the conservation movement. But jeanneret says these laws were really some of the earliest forms of environmental legislation forests. Were no longer for everyone to use as they pleased they were just for the Kings. They had very large administrative networks to manage this for so the forest wardens would they would hand out hunting licenses. They would make sure that game. Animals didn't starve winter or in times of drought. Sometimes they would prepare the venison for royal feasts and they would mete out. Punishments punishments were usually for poaching and they were definitely not just a slap on the wrist. If you ignored the game laws you could have a trial by hot iron and if you were found guilty then your eyes would be torn out or you were castrated. So poaching really big deal. The kings went to great lengths to prevent people from poaching and this had an impact on how people related to the natural world around them. The forest said always been wild in earlier centuries in Europe. They'd even been places of spirituality. But at this point the forests started to become scary rather than sacred. The authorities deliberately painted a picture of forests filled with outlaws and rebels dangerous rule breakers people who posed a threat to society with the stories. The authorities told a violent outlaws in the forest. Some of those were based on reality. There were people breaking the rules in the forest but they were breaking them because they thought the rules were unfair and they were hungry for poor people. This was one former getting food. And any time there was an economic downturn hunting would rise poaching would rise in the forests and so people did find it as an active resistance against the sort of forms of power and some of the rebels who broke the rules and hunted in the forest. They actually became folk. Heroes like Robin Hood and his band of Merry men. So Robin Hood was stealing from the rich and giving to the poor but this also came out of this idea that the force were not necessarily landscapes that poor people were allowed to access or use the resources of and so it wasn't active resistance to go in there and to get in game animals and feed yourself on one level. This is a story of power who could hunt and eat the wild game and wendling European forests and who couldn't that it's also the story of the impact that split between rich hunters and bore poachers had on how Europeans thought of wild food and the whole concept of the wild and wilderness. This is a very particular way of thinking of wild meat. As game to be hunted for sport by the elites and otherwise off limits and this is a template that the Europeans took with them as they colonized countries around the world so when the first European colonists arrived in the Congo Basin they sort of carried this cultural baggage of seeing forest as these dark empty wastelands without people so even though there were a long history of human habitation and numerous groups living in the Congo Basin forests. The European comments kind of didn't see them and there was this real sense of Europeans thought of this landscape as Darkest Africa. Take David Livingston. He was a Scottish missionary and explorer. Who is obsessed with finding the source of the Nile? He did a an exploratory expedition across the Congo wilderness. And he described Congress for us as suffocating wilderness and people waste that seem to have an oppressive silence so in May of eighteen eighty five. The you know quote unquote international community. Which is England France Germany Belgium and Italy? They recognize King Leopold the second of Belgium as having a sovereign claim over much of the Congo and five years later these same countries created what was effectively the first international conservation law this lowest passed in the early nineteen hundreds and it was called the Convention for the preservation of wild animals birds and fish in Africa. Local people couldn't hunt or trap or fish in certain areas of the country. The law was modeled. After the way European forests had become protected game reserves for rich people rich people in particular but of course just like in Europe the forests in Africa weren't actually pristine empty wildernesses before there were plenty of people who depended on them. There were a lot of different groups. Living in the Congo forest somewhere. More nomadic hunter-gatherers others were farming communities living within the rain forest but for all of these groups wild meat provided a very essential source of food. So there were all kinds of animals being eaten everything from various kinds of antelope to forest buffalo wild boar monkeys. You know just hundreds of different animals that communities ate in the forest there were cultural. Taboos around eating certain species particularly ones that were long lived and slow to reproduce like elephants which could and did occasionally provide a lot of meat was considered a sacred act to kill an elephant similar with eating bonobos which are great ape. That's very similar to us. There were beliefs that there is a direct link to that ancestral spirit world so all of these cultural beliefs had an ecological basis to really help conserve animals that had large social complex social groupings or were slow growing and thus thunderbolts over

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