The Nature State: Rethinking the History of Conservation, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Nature State

Rethinking the History of Conservation, 1st Edition

Edited by Wilko Graf von Hardenberg, Matthew Kelly, Claudia Leal, Emily Wakild


228 pages

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This volume brings together case studies from around the globe (including China, Latin America, the Philippines, Namibia, India and Europe) to explore the history of nature conservation in the twentieth century. It seeks to highlight the state, a central actor in these efforts, which is often taken for granted, and establishes a novel concept – the nature state – as a means for exploring the historical formation of that portion of the state dedicated to managing and protecting nature.

Following the Industrial Revolution and post-war exponential increase in human population and consumption, conservation in myriad forms has been one particularly visible way in which the government and its agencies have tried to control, manage or produce nature for reasons other than raw exploitation. Using an interdisciplinary approach and including case studies from across the globe, this edited collection brings together geographers, sociologists, anthropologists and historians in order to examine the degree to which sociopolitical regimes facilitate and shape the emergence and development of nature states.

This innovative work marks an early intervention in the tentative turn towards the state in environmental history and will be of great interest to students and practitioners of environmental history, social anthropology and conservation studies.



"This book offers a bold new concept, the "nature state," intended to take its place beside useful terms such as the welfare state or patrimonial state. Building on fresh case studies from every inhabited continent, the volume explores the tangled links between states and the natural world in illuminating ways."

J.R. McNeill, Georgetown University

"Environmental history takes an important and imaginative stride forward with the concept of a ‘’nature state’’ introduced here through a rich collection of unusual and varied examples. This innovative approach to theorizing state control over the natural environment in the 20thcentury will serve as a productive model for future scholarship on this exciting theme."

Jane Carruthers, University of South Africa

"[T]he contents of The Nature State are wide-ranging in topic and diverse in space. A quick list will illustrate the case studies from every inhabited continent: national parks in the Philippines, Namibia, southern India, Colombia and Brazil, science and conservation in Patagonia, China’s tropical rainforests and in the Danube Delta. A rich haul indeed, all well written, balanced and interesting…The book will be useful as a teaching tool and, no doubt, the type of discussion at the ESEH panel will be replicated in the classroom and beyond."

Jane Carruthers, International Consortium of Enviromental History Organizations, July 2017

Table of Contents


1.The Export of the American National Park Idea in an Age of Empire: The Philippines, 1898 1940

Ian Tyrrell

2.Protecting Patagonia: Science, Conservation and the Pre-History of the Nature State on a South American Frontier, 1903-1934

Emily Wakild

3.Another way to preserve: hunting bans, biosecurity, and the brown bear in Italy, 1930-1960

Wilko Graf von Hardenberg

4. Conservation Politics in the Madras Presidency: Maintaining the Lord Wenlock Downs of the Nilgiris Grasslands, South India, as a National Park,1930-1950

Siddhartha Krishnan

5.Negotiating the Nature State Beyond the Parks: Conservation in 20th Century North-Central Namibia

Emmanuel Kreike

6. Conventional thinking and the fragile birth of the Nature State in post-war Britain.

Matthew Kelly

7. Behind the Scenes and Out in the Open: Making Colombian National Parks in the 1960s and 70s

Claudia Leal

8. Ordering the Borderland:Settlement and Removal in the Iguaçu National Park, Brazil, 1940s-1970s

Frederico Freitas

9. Discovering China’s Tropical Rainforests: Shifting Approaches to People and Nature in the late Twentieth Century

Michael Hathaway

10. Nature, State, and Conservation in the Danube Delta: Turning Fishermen into Outlaws

Stefan Dorondel and Veronica Mitroi







About the Editors

Wilko Graf von Hardenberg is a Senior Research Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany, where he coordinates the working group ‘Art of Judgement’. He holds a PhD in geography from the University of Cambridge, UK, and has worked at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, the Rachel Carson Center, Munich, Germany, and the University of Trento, Italy.

Matthew Kelly teaches history at Northumbria University, UK, where he is helping to establish the environmental humanities as a broad area of research and teaching within the university. He was an Associate Professor at the University of Southampton, UK, and a Fellow of the Rachel Carson Center, Munich, Germany.

Claudia Leal holds a PhD in geography from the University of California at Berkeley, USA, and is Associate Professor in the Department of History at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. She was a Fellow of the Rachel Carson Center, Munich, Germany, and Co-president of the Latin American and Caribbean Society for Environmental History.

Emily Wakild teaches Latin American and Environmental History at Boise State University in Idaho, USA. Her current projects include a primer on teaching environmental history and a monograph on the social and ecological regions of Amazonia and Patagonia.

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:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy