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Forest History Internships

We’ve been collaborating with Plymouth University for a while now.  It has led to an incredibly rich seam of student work that pushes our boundaries and, hopefully, the students.  It allows us to investigate areas we have always wanted to explore but have neither the time nor knowledge.

Some of this work mashes up oral history and illustration (see a previous post here), some with the Design Masters students.  This year we’ve gone deeper into history and taken advantage of an internship the university history department offers.  With Darren Aoki, we developed three strands of research that were offered to students to take on as a paid 40-hour research project.

The first draws on the Shackleton’s polar exploration ship, HMS Terror.  Built on our home-turf at Topsham, near Exeter she had a varied history that ended in being crushed by arctic ice.  We wanted to relate this incredible story back to the ship builders who built her, the foresters who provided the timber.  Ultimately we want to talk about the rich ecological landscape her timber came from and the rich ecological marinescape she is now contributing to, true circularity sandwiching an incredible human story.

The second looked at the little known history of the Canadian Forestry Corps in the UK.  In the early twentieth century many hundreds of Canadian lumberjacks came over as an efficient alternative to importing timber.  Their work across the UK, the sheer volume they were able to harvest and process, we believe was instrumental in the formation of the Forestry Commission.  We wanted to investigate the social and political history of this unique multinational collaboration.

Finally we wanted to come back to the trees we look at every day from our office window. In particular the forester and forest economist Wilfred Hiley whose work here at Dartington has become an integral part of UK forest history.  Our intern on this project has looked at how Hiley’s work on forestry mirrors the changing macro-economic theories of the early twentieth century.

All three projects feed into a much larger piece of work on the role of Devon in the renaissance of woodland management and timber use. HMS Terror we hope will become a much wider piece of work that we have just scratched the surface of. Over the next few months we will be working with the university and students to edit and publish the research.



Canadian Forestry Corps in England: Logs in process of manufacture – Library and Archives Canada/Ministry of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada fonds/a005421

Dartington Estate Redwoods, Jez Ralph

HMS Terror in the ice – CPA Media Pte Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo


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