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Press release

  • 29 September 2006

The unmistakeable impact of humans on the South East

The full effect of generations of people on Britain's natural landscape including the South Downs is explored in a new book by a University of Sussex geographer.

Professor Brian Short looked at the physical environment, archaeology and history of the South East in a study covering hundreds of miles of land and thousands of years. The result is a detailed explanation of why the region looks as it does, in his new book England's Landscape: The South East.

The end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago marks the first potential for the emergence of human communities. The generations of intervention which followed and the growing population of people living in and off the land in the South East is attributed by Professor Short as having the single greatest impact on the region's landscape. This interaction has shaped the town and countryside irreversibly with the impact visible in the patterns of flora and fauna and even the changing climate.

Professor Short says: "The 20th century has witnessed the greatest change in town and country, but there are still some areas untouched, such as parts of the South Downs, the New Forest, North Dorset and Wiltshire. The impact of population is well illustrated in Brighton, one of the places which changed most rapidly because of the influx of people."

The book includes chapters on Land and People, Ways Of Life and Landscapes And The Creative Imagination. Brighton's rapidly-growing population is charted against its origins as a fishing town, originally in decline due to an eroding foreshore. In a study of the long relationship between towns and their countryside both Lewes and Chichester in East and West Sussex feature in the book. The buildings in High Street, Lewes, are highlighted as having frontages which mask the roots of their medieval past. Professor Short describes how Eastbourne became the second-largest town in Sussex by 1891 with a seafront landscape which today still mirrors its late Victorian popularity.

The book is one of a series of eight volumes covering England's regions, with a preface from Sir Neil Cossons OBE, chairman of English Heritage and former president of the Royal Geographical Society.

Notes for editors

Professor Short's England's Landscape: The South East is published by Harper Collins priced £35.


For more information about Professor Short visit his University of Sussex homepage at:


University of Sussex press office contacts: Jacqui Bealing and Jessica Mangold, tel: 01273 678209, fax: 01273 877456 and email:

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