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

The Routledge Environmental Humanities series is an original and inspiring venture recognising that today’s world agricultural and water crises, ocean pollution and resource depletion, global warming from greenhouse gases, urban sprawl, overpopulation, food insecurity and environmental justice are all crises of culture.

The reality of understanding and finding adaptive solutions to our present and future environmental challenges has shifted the epicenter of environmental studies away from an exclusively scientific and technological framework to one that depends on the human-focused disciplines and ideas of the humanities and allied social sciences.

We thus welcome book proposals from all humanities and social sciences disciplines for an inclusive and interdisciplinary series. We favour manuscripts aimed at an international readership and written in a lively and accessible style. The readership comprises scholars and students from the humanities and social sciences and thoughtful readers concerned about the human dimensions of environmental change.

Please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan ( 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 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, Faculty of 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, Iain McCalman, University of Sydney, Australia,    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, Deborah Bird Rose, University of New South Wales, Australia, 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

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Subject Categories

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