The evidence from analysis of cores from lake sediments is used to identify the influences which, acting through time, have brought about changes in the lakes of the English Lake District. These are: i. climatic changes, recorded mainly in microfossil assemblages ii. soil dynamics on catchments — the natural soil development of an interglacial cycle and its effect on water composition, and iii. perturbations of input resulting from activities of man. The present position of each of 14 lakes in a series of increasing eutrophication is shown to be the result of two processes of modification by man. The first was a significant reduction in volume of the hypolimnion of the shallow lakes, consequent on the accelerated rate of sediment accumulation which followed deforestation and cultivation of catchments in all the lakes — this did not affect the biology of the deep lakes. The second has been the introduction of human and animal wastes into some of the lakes during the last 120 years, which imposed on affected lakes a process of more rapid change which was more intense in the shallow lakes.