Governing the Environment in the Early Modern World: Theory and Practice, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Governing the Environment in the Early Modern World

Theory and Practice, 1st Edition

Edited by Sara Miglietti, John Morgan


210 pages

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Throughout the early modern period, scientific debate and governmental action became increasingly preoccupied with the environment, generating discussion across Europe and the wider world as to how to improve land and climate for human benefit. This discourse eventually promoted the reconsideration of long-held beliefs about the role of climate in upholding the social order, driving economies and affecting public health.

Governing the Environment in the Early Modern World explores the relationship between cultural perceptions of the environment and practical attempts at environmental regulation and change between 1500 and 1800. Taking a cultural and intellectual approach to early modern environmental governance, this edited collection combines an interpretative perspective with new insights into a period largely unfamiliar to environmental historians. Using a rich and multifaceted narrative, this book offers an understanding as to how efforts to enhance productive aspects of the environment were both led by and contributed to new conceptualisations of the role of ‘nature’ in human society.

This book offers a cultural and intellectual approach to early modern environmental history and will be of special interest to environmental, cultural and intellectual historians, as well as anyone with an interest in the culture and politics of environmental governance.




Governing the Environment presents us with diverse and innovative scholarship on how early modern thinkers interpreted the complex relationships between people and their dynamic environments. Although focused on the past, this well-crafted volume provides fresh perspectives on current interrogations into what constitutes "nature" in light of the long history of politicized climate knowledge, the variable effects of human agency, and the challenges of environmental governance projects.

Mary Floyd-Wilson, University of North Carolina

With learning lightly worn, these insightful essays illuminate the multiple, and ever-evolving, understandings of climate and the environment circulating in Western Europe and North America in the early modern centuries. They convincingly show how deeply environmental ideas, and management practices, were embedded in prevailing political and social orders - then as now.

John McNeill, Georgetown University

Table of Contents

Foreword Mike Hulme Introduction Sara Miglietti and John Morgan 1.Climate, travel and colonialism in the early modern world - Rebecca Earle 2. Jean Bodin and the idea of anachorism Richard Spavin 3. Marshes as microclimate: governing with the environment in early modern France Raphael Morera 4. Mastering north-east England's "River of Tine": efforts to manage a rvier's flow, functions and form 1529-c.1800 Leona Skelton 5. "Take plow and spade, build and plant and make the waste land fruitful": Gerrard Winstanley and the importance of labour Ashley Dodsworth 6. Winter and discontent in early modern England - William Cavert 7. “A considerable change of climate”: glacial retreat and British policy in the early-nineteenth-century Arctic - Anya Zilberstein 8."Vast factories of febrile poison": wetlands, drainage, and the fate of American climates, 1750-1850 - Anthony Carlson

About the Editors

Sara Miglietti is an Assistant Professor of French Studies at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA.

John Morgan is an environmental and social historian, and a Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Manchester, UK.

About the Series

Routledge Environmental Humanities

From microplastics in the sea to hyper-trends such as global climate change, mega-extinction, and widening social disparities and displacement, we live on a planet undergoing tremendous flux and uncertainty. At the center of this transformation is human culture, both contributing to the state of the world and responding to planetary change. The Routledge Environmental Humanities Series seeks to engage with contemporary environmental challenges through the various lenses of the humanities and to explore foundational issues in environmental justice, multicultural environmentalism, ecofeminism, environmental psychology, environmental materialities and textualities, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, environmental communication and information management, multispecies relationships, and related topics. The series is premised on the notion that the arts, humanities, and social sciences, integrated with the natural sciences, are essential to comprehensive environmental studies.

The environmental humanities are a multidimensional discipline encompassing such fields as anthropology, history, literary and media studies, philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology, and women’s and gender studies; however, the Routledge Environmental Humanities is particularly eager to receive book proposals that explicitly cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, bringing the full force of multiple perspectives to illuminate vexing and profound environmental topics. We favor manuscripts aimed at an international readership and written in a lively and accessible style. Our readers include scholars and students from across the span of environmental studies disciplines and thoughtful citizens and policy makers interested in the human dimensions of environmental change.

Please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan ([email protected]), to submit proposals.

Praise for A Cultural History of Climate Change (2016):

A Cultural History of Climate Change shows that the humanities are not simply a late-arriving appendage to Earth System science, to help in the work of translation. These essays offer distinctive insights into how and why humans reason and imagine their ‘weather-worlds’ (Ingold, 2010). We learn about the interpenetration of climate and culture and are prompted to think creatively about different ways in which the idea of climate change can be conceptualised and acted upon beyond merely ‘saving the planet’.

Professor Mike Hulme, King's College London, in Green Letters

Series Editors:

Professor Scott Slovic, University of Idaho, USA

Professor Joni Adamson, Arizona State University, USA

Professor YUKI Masami, Kanazawa University, Japan

Previous editors:

Professor Iain McCalman, University of Sydney Research Fellow in History; Director, Sydney University Environment Institute.

Professor Libby Robin, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra; Guest Professor of Environmental History, Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Sweden.

Dr Paul Warde, Reader in Environmental History, University of Cambridge, UK

Editorial Board

Christina Alt, St Andrews University, UK, Alison Bashford, University of New South Wales, Australia, Peter Coates, University of Bristol, UK, Thom van Dooren, University of New South Wales, Australia, Georgina Endfield, Liverpool UK, Jodi Frawley, University of Western Australia, Andrea Gaynor, The University of Western Australia, Australia, Christina Gerhardt, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, USA,□Tom Lynch, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA, Jennifer Newell, Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia , Simon Pooley, Imperial College London, UK, Sandra Swart, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, Ann Waltner, University of Minnesota, US, Jessica Weir, University of Western Sydney, Australia

International Advisory Board

William Beinart,University of Oxford, UK, Jane Carruthers, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa, Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago, USA, Paul Holm, Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, Shen Hou, Renmin University of China, Beijing, Rob Nixon, Princeton University, USA, Pauline Phemister, Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, UK, Sverker Sörlin, KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, Helmuth Trischler, Deutsches Museum, Munich and Co-Director, Rachel Carson Centre, LMU Munich University, Germany, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University, USA, Kirsten Wehner, University of London, UK

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy