Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 March 2008
In a representation of history, the landscape should be thought of as being continually influenced by people. It can be seen as the tangible and characteristic result of the interaction between a specific society, its cultural preferences and potential, and the physio-geographical conditions. Human intelligence exercises a decisive influence on the ecological balance of the landscape, to store knowledge and to organise the use of natural resources. For that reason, much of the landscape has been dominated by human influence over the centuries, and should therefore be regarded as a part of cultural history.
The agrarian landscape provides an excellent illustration of this line of thought. Before agriculture became industrialised the farming population was affected by and was dependent on the conditions dictated by nature. The natural landscape was gradually transformed into a cultural landscape which, depending on natural conditions, varies from region to region.
The natural landscape can be likened to a chessboard. Man himself makes the rules of the game to suit his social and economic needs; he determines how natural resources are to be used. What the chessboard looks like is primarily dependent on geology, the landforms, climate, hydrology and soil conditions. Let us therefore start by considering some of the main physical characteristics of the Scandinavian landscape throughout the millennia that have passed since the Quaternary glaciations.