Spatializing the History of Ecology: Sites, Journeys, Mappings, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Spatializing the History of Ecology

Sites, Journeys, Mappings, 1st Edition

Edited by Raf de Bont, Jens Lachmund


238 pages | 17 B/W Illus.

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Throughout its history, the discipline of ecology has always been profoundly entangled with the history of space and place. On the one hand, ecology is a field science that has thrived on the study of concrete spatial entities, such as islands, forests or rivers. These spaces are the workplaces in which ecological phenomena are identified, observed and experimented on. They provide both epistemic opportunities and constraints that structure the agenda and the analytical sensibilities of ecological researchers. On the other hand, ecological knowledge and practices have become important resources through which spaces and places are classified, delineated, explained, experienced and managed. The impact of these activities reaches far beyond the realms of the ecological discipline. Many ecological concepts such as "biotopes," "ecosystems" and "the biosphere" have become entities that widely resonate in public life and policy making.

This book explores the mutual entanglement between space and knowledge-making in the history of ecology. Its first goal is to explore to which extent a spatial perspective can shed new light on the history of ecological science. Second, it uses ecology as a critical site to gain broader insights into the history of the environment in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Via a series of case studies – discussing topics that range from ecological field stations in the early-twentieth century Caribbean over wisent breeding in Nazi Germany to computer modelling in North American deserts – the book offers a tour through the changing landscapes of modern ecology.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Knowing Nature, Making Space

Raf De Bont and Jens Lachmund


Part I: Crafting Zones and Regions


2. Mapping Heimat: Amateur Natural History and Plant Ecology in Imperial Germany

Nils Güttler


3. Life Zones: The Rise and Decline of a Theory of the Geographic Distribution of Species

Roderick P. Neumann


4. A Laboratory for Tropical Ecology: Colonial Models and American Science at Cinchona, Jamaica

Megan Raby


5. Field Stations and the Problem of Scale: Local, Regional, and Global at the Desert Lab

Jeremy Vetter


6. Ecology and Rehabilitation: The West Highland Survey

Mark Toogood


Part II: Modelling Systems


7. Ecosystem Simulation as a Practice of Emplacement: The Desert Biome Project, 1970-1974

Etienne S. Benson


8. The City as an Ecosystem: Paul Duvigneaud and the Ecological Study of Brussels

Jens Lachmund


Part III: Fashioning Objects of Conservation


9. Extinct in the Wild: Finding a Place for the European Bison, 1919-1952

Raf De Bont


10. Islands and Bioregions: Global Reserve Design Models and the Making of National Parks, 1960-2000

Simone Schleper and Hans Schouwenburg


11. Space, Place, Land, and Sea: The "Ecological Discovery" of the Global Wadden Sea

Anna-Katharina Wöbse



Raf De Bont and Jens Lachmund

About the Editors

Raf de Bont is a Lecturer in the History Department at Maastricht University.

Jens Lachmund is a Lecturer in Science and Technology Studies at Maastricht University.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Studies in the History of Science Technology and Medicine aims to stimulate research in the field, concentrating on the twentieth century. It seeks to contribute to our understanding of science, technology and medicine as they are embedded in society, exploring the links between the subjects on the one hand, and the cultural, economic, political and institutional contexts of their genesis and development on the other. Within this framework, and while not favouring any particular methodological approach, the series welcomes studies which examine relations between science, technology, medicine and society in new ways, e.g. the social construction of technologies, large technical systems.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General