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The Invention of Sustainability: Nature and Destiny, c.1500-1870

Paul Warde

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Cambridge University Press
15 December 2019
History of ideas; Mathematics & Sciences; Environmentalist thought & ideology
The issue of sustainability, and the idea that economic growth and development might destroy its own foundations, is one of the defining political problems of our era. This groundbreaking study traces the emergence of this idea, and demonstrates how sustainability was closely linked to hopes for growth, and the destiny of expanding European states, from the sixteenth century. Weaving together aspirations for power, for economic development and agricultural improvement, and ideas about forestry, climate, the sciences of the soil and of life itself, this book sets out how new knowledge and metrics led people to imagine both new horizons for progress, but also the possibility of collapse. In the nineteenth century, anxieties about sustainability, often driven by science, proliferated in debates about contemporary and historical empires and the American frontier. The fear of progress undoing itself confronted society with finding ways to live with and manage nature.
By:   Paul Warde
Imprint:   Cambridge University Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 230mm,  Width: 150mm,  Spine: 27mm
Weight:   450g
ISBN:   9781316601150
ISBN 10:   1316601153
Pages:   419
Publication Date:   15 December 2019
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
1. Living from the land, c.1500-1620; 2. Governing the woods, c.1500-1700; 3. Ambition and experiment, c.1590-1740; 4. Paths to sustained growth, c.1650-1760; 5. Nature translated, c.1670-1830; 6. Theories of circulation, c.1740-1800; 7. Political economies of nature, c.1760-1840; 8. History and destiny, c.1700-1870; Conclusion: ends and beginnings.

Paul Warde is a Reader in Environmental History at the University of Cambridge. His previous publications include Ecology, Economy and State Formation in Early Modern Germany (Cambridge, 2006), Power to the People. Energy in Europe over the Last Five Centuries (2013), and The Future of Nature: Documents of Global Change (2013).

Reviews for The Invention of Sustainability: Nature and Destiny, c.1500-1870

'This is an important book. A history of ideas that ranges widely over political economy, the state and the environment, The Invention of Sustainability is a great example of how to present a compelling argument while respecting complexity. Paul Warde brings together wonderfully rich evidence and makes his case lucidly. The result is a bold and very satisfying work.' David Blackbourn, author of The Conquest of Nature 'In this readable, erudite, and sophisticated book, Paul Warde persuasively argues that, although the current articulation of concerns about sustainability are relatively new, the concerns themselves have deep historical roots. He deftly combines environmental, economic, and intellectual history to show that analogous concerns with scarcity and depletion characterized the practices of pre-industrial farmers and foresters, as well as the policies of those responsible for the management of organic and mineral resources and the theories on which those policies were based.' Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 'Paul Warde's impressive study of more than three centuries of ideas about economic growth and agricultural productivity draws out a more complex story. ... scholarly and nuanced ...' Clare Griffiths, Times Higher Education 'Warde's book is perhaps the most important tract in the intellectual history of environmental ideas since Clarence Glacken's Traces on the Rhodian Shore ... Historical geographers, environmental historians and historians more generally need to read this brilliant book.' Robert J. Mayhew, Journal of Historical Geography 'This is an important book. A history of ideas that ranges widely over political economy, the state and the environment, The Invention of Sustainability is a great example of how to present a compelling argument while respecting complexity. Paul Warde brings together wonderfully rich evidence and makes his case lucidly. The result is a bold and very satisfying work.' David Blackbourn, author of The Conquest of Nature 'In this readable, erudite, and sophisticated book, Paul Warde persuasively argues that, although the current articulation of concerns about sustainability are relatively new, the concerns themselves have deep historical roots. He deftly combines environmental, economic, and intellectual history to show that analogous concerns with scarcity and depletion characterized the practices of pre-industrial farmers and foresters, as well as the policies of those responsible for the management of organic and mineral resources and the theories on which those policies were based.' Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 'Paul Warde's impressive study of more than three centuries of ideas about economic growth and agricultural productivity draws out a more complex story. ... scholarly and nuanced ...' Clare Griffiths, Times Higher Education 'Warde's book is perhaps the most important tract in the intellectual history of environmental ideas since Clarence Glacken's Traces on the Rhodian Shore ... Historical geographers, environmental historians and historians more generally need to read this brilliant book.' Robert J. Mayhew, Journal of Historical Geography


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