Scottish environmental history and the (mis)use of Soums


Ross A (2006) Scottish environmental history and the (mis)use of Soums. Agricultural History Review, 54 (2), pp. 213-228.

For much of the historical period pasture was apportioned into relatively small units across much of Europe. Scotland was no exception to this norm and here such units were called soums. Both soums and stocking figures have been widely used by a number of people to try to construct theories relating to the environmental history of the Highlands, particularly in relation to changing grazing pressures during the last 300 years. Using a particularly stark case study from Breadalbane, this article will argue that in fact soums are largely unreliable and confusing pieces of historical evidence that should never be used in isolation without good corroborating evidence. Finally, in the absence of reliable historical souming information, it will be suggested that historians should instead integrate site-specific palaeoecological data into their arguments to create a more accurate picture of changing grazing pressure over time.

environmental history; souming; upland grazing; Scotland History; Nature Effect of human beings on Scotland History

Agricultural History Review: Volume 54, Issue 2

Publication date31/12/2006
PublisherBritish Agricultural History Society
Publisher URL