This book is concerned with the history and development of southern England over the past ten centuries. The region covers the whole of central-southern and western England from the Thames valley to Exmoor, from the Severn estuary and the Bristol channel to the Isle of Wight and the English Channel coast between Lyme Regis and Portsmouth, and it comprises the ancient counties of Berkshire, Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset, and the city and county of Bristol, as they existed before the boundary changes of 1974. Within this large area there are great contrasts in geology and landscape. It includes the fertile countryside of the Thames valley, the Vale of the White Horse, and the rich farmlands of the vales of Taunton Deane and of west Dorset, as well as the windswept, barren uplands of Exmoor rising to 1,700 feet at Dunkery Beacon, the rugged coastline of west Somerset and the poor, acid soils of the heathlands of Hampshire and Dorset. The landscape, towns, villages and farms of the chalk downlands which dominate the central core of the region are quite different from the lush pastures and neat villages of the Thames valley, the wooded claylands of north Wiltshire, east Somerset and west Dorset, or the marshlands of central Somerset. A traveller through the region cannot fail to notice the frequent and often dramatic changes in scenery; the observant will also notice the different ways in which each landscape has been adapted and changed by human activity, the contrasts in the size, shape and frequency of villages and towns, the varieties of farming practice, the different field shapes, road patterns and the evidences of former industries. It is the purpose of this book to describe the history of the communities which have lived within the region from the time of the Norman Conquest to the twentieth century, and to show how the environment and landscape have been modified and developed by human activity, by economic pressures, religious movements, political changes and military requirements, and above all by long centuries of toil by many generations of farmers.