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Exploring Environmental HistorySelected Essays$
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T. C. Smout

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780748635139

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748635139.001.0001

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The Environmental Historiography of Britain*

The Environmental Historiography of Britain*

(p.7) CHAPTER 1 The Environmental Historiography of Britain*
Exploring Environmental History

T. C. Smout

Edinburgh University Press

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

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