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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Nation and Nature Preservation in France and England in the Nineteenth Century

Charles-François Mathis

Environment and History 20 (2014): 9-39. doi: 10.3197/096734014X13851121443364

The article proposes to compare the ways nature in France and England was considered, in the nineteenth century, as a patrimoine to be preserved. It analyses first how the disruption of the industrial revolution in England and the discovery of the English landscapes led to a vision of what was considered as the most typical English landscape. In France, on the contrary, no such singular landscape emerged: the article underlines that, following the French revolution, what mattered in this country was history, not nature - even natural places were protected for their historical associations. The consequences of these two different approaches can be seen in the founding battles for nature preservation in France and England: respectively those of Fontainebleau Forest and Thirlmere. While the latter strengthened the environmental movement in England, the preservation of Fontainebleau forest did not have such an impact on the national scale. The article concludes by trying to understand how, from these very different premises, French and English preservation movements related to a nature-patrimoine, finally converged at the beginning of the twentieth century.

KEYWORDS: Nature, nation, environmental associations, landscape

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