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Luke Kramer

Location: Wisconsin
Joined: 10 Dec 2011
Likes: 6 pages
Reading list: 11 books

Posts: 23

PostPosted: Tue 14 Feb, 2012 12:50 pm    Post subject: Foresters         Reply with quote

Hi all! I've been a shadow on this site for a while, but haven't actually posted until now. I apologize if I have misplaced my topic in the hierarchy.

Anyway, I have been doing some research on medieval hunting and forestry. I remember reading somewhere that nobles often employed foresters of common decent to watch their rustic lands. These people, I believe were akin to modern forest rangers and enforced poaching laws as well as assisted in general keeping of the law.

My searches to validate this idea have been rather fruitless. I was hoping someone more knowledgeable than I in this area could help point me in the right direction.

Thanks again,

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Ken Speed

Joined: 09 Oct 2006

Posts: 656

PostPosted: Tue 14 Feb, 2012 3:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wealthy landowners in England had gamekeepers whose job was, in part, to prevent poachers from hunting on land and taking game which the landowners felt belonged to them. Since the poachers were as often as not men who were trying to feed their families its hard to sympathize with the gamekeepers when the punishment for poaching was often mutilation or death.

Bull mastiff dogs owe their creation to efforts to counter poachers.

Foresters as opposed to gamekeepers were, I think, involved in maintaining and harvesting the forest for fuel and lumber responsibly.

I'm unaware of what the situation was in Continental Europe
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Randall Moffett

Location: Northern Utah
Joined: 07 Jun 2006
Reading list: 5 books

Posts: 2,119

PostPosted: Tue 14 Feb, 2012 7:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sadly in our modern time people actually do not understand foresters and poaching in medieval England so this is likely what you are running into mostly. And the fact Hollywood and modern stereotypes have made this profession much darker and much more sinister than they really were distorts things immensely. There are several people who have wrote in the last few decades some good academic works on this topic though.

They are basically a law enforcement officer over specific forest lands, at least for England. Usually they dealt with the sheriff of a county. They did enforce more or less all laws of the forest which keep people from felling live timber and hunting specific animals. I am sure some were criminal and abused their power but to assume all were this way or even anything nearing a majority would be nonsense.

Basically a forest was any 'wild' lands kept for hunting and such. There are chases, parks and all sorts of similar things with various and specific laws. The land did belong to these people. No doubt about that. How they acquired it might be questioned but ownership was strictly moderated. We have full scale legal battles over chases and such. That said massive swaths of land in England were not owned by the King or greater lords so the game keepers and foresters and their likes were set to specific areas. That said it was a common complaint after the Normans came and 'stole' so much land away but since they stole the entire country following this logic then forest were the least of their issues.

Interesting enough some large cities and towns maintained ownership of their own forest lands like York and London.

Take a look here for some great specifics.;sp-s=0

Contrary to commonly held ideas hunting in general was not illegal. It was the hunting of specific types of animals, deer, foxes, pheasants, partridges, rabbits were for example reserved. As well certain areas were illegal to hunt on at all. By in large though hunting of lesser game was OK and carried out. So the idea these gents were starving out families is a fallacy, at least for the High and Late Medieval period in the UK. We do have some complaints especially close to the 1066 shift but many of these are likely something more to add to the lists of 'wrongs' the Normans carried out on the poor conquered English. They could hunt a wide variety of things but the punishments of passing these OKed animals was often severe though it is more often than not a fine than death or mutilation by the 13th century in England. If these animals forbidden left the forest they were fair game.... no pun intended, ok maybe a bit.

The late Henry Loyn wrote about the transition from Anglo-Saxon to Norman England and has more or less debunked the entire oppressive forester stereotype as a myth which from my readings of most royal records from Henry II to Henry VII/Henry VIII I see no reason to think him wrong.

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Luke Kramer

Location: Wisconsin
Joined: 10 Dec 2011
Likes: 6 pages
Reading list: 11 books

Posts: 23

PostPosted: Wed 15 Feb, 2012 9:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the links. It sounds as if it was quite rare for one person to hold both gameskeeper and forester, which I had thought were different aspects of a single profession. However, it stands to reason that both jobs would have been time-consuming enough to justify appointing a person for each job.

This should allow me to make decent headway.
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