Book Review: The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes

As featured in Edition 39, available here.


BY NIALL HAWKINS (3rd year - History and Politics - Berkhamstead, UK)

Rarely does a book with such an overt political message as this one succeed in telling a story that is both coherent and able to dazzle the reader with its prose. Nick Hayes can go from recalling the often-well-trodden history of enclosure in England to detailing the psychological effects of such unfettered capitalism, but at no point does he stray, remaining original.


This book is not written in the stuffy office of an Oxbridge college or under the harsh lighting of a Think Tank meeting room. It is written in and for the countryside of England, and it is the land as much as the people that Hayes considers in his work, as the illustrations prove. Never have I read so compelling an argument for taking drugs whilst simultaneously trespassing on private land!


With each chapter Hayes explores some new place, often enclosed in the centuries gone by, and nowadays likely owned by a company registered somewhere tropical. Encounters with gamekeepers are dealt with cordially, but always Hayes must confront the trajectory and conflict of ideas and history that has rendered his simple act of ‘trespass’ a serious crime.


You could read this book with a steaming mug in hand and some lo-fi beats in the background. Or, more appropriately like Hayes himself, after you have just hopped some barbed wire and are ready to set up camp within the bounds of some old manor. After reading it, that will be the only thing on your mind.


“The Book of Trespass” is a manifesto for a wholesale confrontation of the historic narrative that has, over centuries, justified slavery, colonialism, and the absurd idea that land can be owned.


More than the reading experience though, what is most exciting about this book are the possibilities for what might come next.



Image: Bloomsbury Publishing / The Book of Trespass