Squatting as Moral Ecology: Encroachment and ‘Abuse’ in the New Forest, England
Returning Jacoby’s moral ecology to its contextual roots—the rural England of EP Thompson’s Whigs and Hunters—this chapter tests the concept’s wider validity through a study of the moral ecology of squatting. The geographical focus is the New Forest, the largest of the English royal forests, a vast patchwork of ‘state’-owned lands and private lands subject to the strictures of forest law. The temporal frame is the period between the Restoration (1660) and the 1780s, when the first systematic survey of English forests was undertaken. The chapter shows that notwithstanding attempts to frame squatting as an ‘abuse’, and against the waxing and waning of efforts to prevent encroachment on the forest, squatters did not represent a threat to forest resources and instead became an important part of the human ecology of the forest.