Jack Westoby’s challenge to the forestry world that ‘forestry is not about trees, it is about people. And it is about trees only insofar as trees can serve the needs of people’ (Westoby, 1967 cited in Leslie, 1987: ix) was first answered by social forestry. Its appearance on the international stage was as a response to the so-called poor-man’s fuelwood energy crisis, the supposed eco-disasters of the 1970s and most importantly the growing realisation that industrial forestry was failing to deliver the claimed socio-economic benefits. All of this was to have profound consequences on the future shape of the forest sector. The history of these changes is an important part of understanding why and how social forestry evolved.