National parks have always been an emotive and iconic symbol, ever since the first parks of the modern era were created in the mid-nineteenth century. This book, based on original research, delves deeply into their character and significance, and the larger context in which they developed.
The book celebrates the deserved attractiveness of the parks as wilderness or 'spectacle' to millions of visitors, but also emphasises how there was nothing inevitable, self-sustaining or without cost in their magnificence and accessibility. Those early parks were a powerful unifying force as national 'playgrounds', especially as motor transport democratised their use. However they also provoked bitter conflict in their dispossession of local communities and perhaps deliberate segregation of people from scenery and wildlife.
That first century of national parks, which concluded with the significant break of the Second World War and the subsequent development of more international approaches to conservation, left an uncertain legacy. It was a fragile foundation from which to build what became an integral part of today's conservation movement.
"This book is the most rounded account of the international development of national parks that I have seen – meticulously researched yet very readable." – W.M. Adams, Moran Professor of Conservation and Development, University of Cambridge, UK
"This major historical treatment provides a global view of the first century of the national park movement. The very broad coverage of many countries provides the reader with a stimulating account of grand ideas as they developed." – Paul F. J. Eagles, Professor, Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Waterloo, Canada
"Taken in by the title and luminous cover photo, the casual reader might expect this book to describe, with suitable illustrations, the natural glories of National Parks around the world. But this not what John Sheail's book is about. Those in the know, however, will not be surprised to find thorough scholarship; Sheail is well established as a reviewer and commentator upon environmental conservation endeavour." – Alan Mowle, Bulletin of the British Ecological Society
Preface 1. Acts of Defiance 2. America's Invention 3. Scenic Reserves 4. The Forest Reserves 5. Wildlife Reserves 6. National Monuments 7. Conservation and the American Parks 8. Parks and Empire-Making 9. The Making of a Parks' System 10. National Playgrounds 11. Parks as Contested Grounds 12. Parks and the Wider Governance 13. An Uncertain Legacy