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Imagining Rabbits and Squirrels in the English Countryside

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Drawing on contemporary coverage, particularly in The Field and Country Life, this article considers the construction of rabbits and squirrels as images of the past in England. By the 1930s, the red squirrel had become increasingly rare in the English countryside. Particularly in towns and suburbs, the population of the grey squirrel was growing rapidly. Those who saw themselves as the custodians of the countryside depicted the grey squirrel as a foreign force inimical to a mythical English way of life as epitomized by the red squirrel. In the post war period, the debate resurfaced about the nature of the countryside and who had a right to defend it. The focus then was upon the spread of myxomatosis from France, which was depicted as a foreign disease. Wild rabbits, who died in the thousands from this infection, became appropriated, as red squirrels before them, as symbols of a lyrical and ordered past in the countryside.


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