The Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife

Britain and Ireland between the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution

  • Provides maps and analysis of the early modern distribution of more than 160 species.
  • Gathers observations by amateur naturalists, travellers and local historians from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries for the very first time.
  • Derived from over 10,000 records from over 200 primary sources.

    • archaeology
    • British Isles
    • Coming Soon
    • natural history
    • palaeozoology
    • zoology


    What was the state of wildlife in Britain and Ireland before modern records began? The Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife looks at the era before climate change, before the intensification of agriculture, before even the Industrial Revolution. In the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, beavers still swim in the River Ness. Isolated populations of wolves and lynxes linger in the uplands. Sea eagles are widespread around the coasts. Wildcats and pine martens remain common in the Lake District.

    In this ground-breaking volume, the observations of early modern amateur naturalists, travellers and local historians are gathered together for the very first time. Drawing on over 10,000 records from across Britain and Ireland, the book presents maps and notes on the former distribution of over 160 species, providing a new baseline against which to discuss subsequent declines and extinctions, expansions and introductions. A guide to identification describes the reliable and unreliable names of each species, including the pre-Linnaean scientific nomenclature, as well as local names in early modern English and, where used in the sources, Irish, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish and Norn.

    Raising a good number of questions at the same time as it answers many others, this remarkable resource will be of great value to conservationists, archaeologists, historians and anyone with an interest in the natural heritage of Britain and Ireland.

    DOI: 10.53061/DDBT1693


    • Indispensable for historians of natural history, environmental historians, and anyone interested in heritage and the natural world in Britain and Ireland. Valuable also for analysis of past taxonomy. Highly recommended.
      —Anna Marie Roos, Professor of the History of Science and Medicine, University of Lincoln
    • A stonker of a book.
      —Iolo Williams, naturalist and TV presenter
    • Our wildlife is in a state of flux. Spend time with this book and you will see how much we have already changed it. There is a treasure trove of information here, with meticulously researched maps and a detailed, highly readable text. I had no idea there were ‘citizen science’ wildlife surveys in the seventeenth century. Now, along with a wide range of other sources, they have been put to good use in this wonderful, absorbing book.
      —Ian Carter, author of Rhythms of Nature and The Hen Harrier’s Year

    About the Author

    Lee Raye is an associate lecturer at the Open University and a Fellow of the Linnaean Society specialising in the history of wild animals and plants in pre-industrial Britain and Ireland. Their translation of Robert Sibbald’s (1684) Wild Plants of Scotland and The Animals of Scotland was published in 2020.

    Bibliographic Information

    • 408 pages
    • 150 b&w illustrations, 150 maps, 7 graphs and tables
    • BISAC SCI070000, SCI054000, NAT037000