The Environmental Historiography of Britain<sup>*</sup>

T. C. Smout

in Exploring Environmental History

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780748635139
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651375 | DOI:
The Environmental Historiography of Britain*

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This chapter focuses on how the British came to understand that the environment had a history. The British discovered environmental history during the Enlightenment. As good a date as any to start is 1788, when the Scottish geologist James Hutton, friend of Hume and Smith, published his Theory of the Earth and concluded a scientific lecture given before the Royal Society of Edinburgh with the scalp-tingling words, ‘we find no vestige of a beginning — no prospect of an end’. It is also argued that the history of the environment in Britain seemed less to be environmental history in the American sense of a history of misunderstanding and violent misuse, as a history of relatively benign and gradual landscape change and of an agriculture that, by certain definitions at least, was environmentally sustainable until after the Second World War.

Keywords: environmental history; British; Enlightenment; James Hutton; Theory of the Earth

Chapter.  6231 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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