A History of Coppicing in the British Isles
Coppicing has been done for thousands of years, its roots and diversity are as interesting as they are suprisingly complex. The word 'coppice' comes from the French word 'couper', which means 'to cut', indeed coppice is usually divided up into areas which are cut on a rotation called 'coupes' (also 'cant','fell', 'panel').
Heralding from at least as far back as 4000BC, our Neolithic ancestors knew the value of coppicing and understood the importance of useful, well managed woodland areas. This sort of thing: https://neolithichouses.wordpress.com/tag/coppicing/
The practise became significant through the Bronze age, Iron age and indeed it is thought the Romans possibly propagated the Sweet Chestnut here in the British Isles (update: though interestingly, some recent archaeology now throws this theory into some doubt: https://www.archaeology.co.uk/articles/that-old-chestnut-how-sweet-chestnuts-came-to-britain.htm).
Coppicing has continued right the way up until the present day, perhaps being most significant up until around the mid 1800's and then declining slowly into the early part of the 1900's. when new methods and industry replaced many of the product needs for coppiced wood (everything from hop poles, hazel crates, hazel sheep hurdles, roof shingles, gate hurdles, wattle, thatching spars.. a long list) Perhaps most notably, the introduction of metal fabrication and then plastic to some extent, has replaced quite a few uses of wood over the decades going into the mid 1900's. But there remains a somewhat nostalgic love of all things made from these coppiced materials and indeed many important jobs still rely on them - eg hazel spars used in thatching which is still prevalent across many areas and hedgelayers who still use traditional stakes and binders etc.
When I have a bit of time, I will endeavour to do some more research and share my findings here.
Should you have any good details on the history of coppicing and wish to share, please get in touch as I am always looking for more information on the subject, historical and otherwise.
But for now these links provide plenty of great information regarding this most ancient of activities: - some of these links die so I try to keep on top of them, apologies if a link fails.
Wikipedia on coppicing
Smallwoods - coppicing
Hampshire Coppice Craftsmans Group
National Coppice Products website
National Coppice Federation
Hurdle maker's brake
Sussex and Surrey Coppice group