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Research interests

I am an historian of late-eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century rural England, with my research exploring how environmental change and agricultural ‘improvement’ was perceived, performed and punished.

My PhD and published articles have explored how rural landscapes and non-human actors shaped the forms and functions of socio-political resistance. In particular, these works examine how countryfolk constructed and protected an ‘ethical’ relationship between masters, men and the land. Through microhistorical examinations of rural communities, my research investigates how rural spaces and places served as quotidian avenues for national political, environmental or moral debates.

From 2020 to 2022 I was a  Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Leverhulme Trust funded project ‘A Landscape Transformed: The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest’, led by Professor Henry French and Professor Ralph Fyfe (University of Plymouth). This project explored the transformation of the 'Royal Forest of Exmoor' between 1818 and 1897, combining expertise in palaeoecology, environmental archaeology and history. Through interdisciplinary collaboration we assesed  the relationships between human activities and motivations, and ecological processes and legacies on Exmoor. As the History PDRF my work focused on the examining how the growing perception of Exmoor as a 'foreign', 'savage' and 'colonial' landscape shaped the activities of agricultural 'improvers' and the treatment of Exmoor's human and non-human inhabitants. 

Currently, I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate for the AHRC funded 'Beautiful and Relatively Wild' Project. Working with the Exmoor National Park Authority, I am currently examining the enviromental history of Exmoor's coastal forests during the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This is an area of particular contemporary importance as a result of the government's plans to plant thousands of hectares of trees across the country as part of its climate mitigation efforts. A better understanding of the environmental history of this region will help to show where tree planting has created tensions in the past in order to anticipate and avoid unnecessary problems in the present.

Publications 

H. French and L. Baker, ‘“The Result Never Quite Equalled the Promise”: Risk, Reward and Reclamation on Exmoor, 1840-1897’, Agricultural History Review, (2023), forthcoming.

F. Rowney, R. Fyfe, L. Baker, H. French, M. Koot, H. Ombashi & R. Timms, ‘Historical Anthropogenic Disturbances Explain Long-Term Moorland Vegetation Dynamics’, Ecology & Evolution 13:3 (2023), pp. 1-17.

L. Baker, ‘Human and Animal Trespass as Protest: Space and Continuity in Rural Somerset and Dorset’, History Workshop Journal, 87 (April 2019), pp. 72-93.

L. Baker, ‘“West Country Scum”: National Politics, Local Ritual and Space in the English South West, c. 1820-1832’, Romance, Revolution & Reform, 1 (April 2019), pp. 9-31.

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