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Environment and History

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Environment and History

‘The holy property of the entirety of the people’: The Struggle for the ‘German Forest’ in Prussia, 1871–1914

Jeffrey K. Wilson

Environment and History 20 (2014): 41-65. doi: 10.3197/096734014X13851121443409

During the nineteenth century, German intellectuals articulated the notion that the nation’s identity and social peace were rooted in public access to its forests. In the late nineteenth century, however, the Prussian state sought to tighten property laws, allowing landowners to exert more control over their property and exclude interlopers. First liberals and Catholics, then conservative agrarian reformers and radical nationalists, responded with hostility to these efforts, challenging landowning elites. Whereas the romanticisation of the ‘German forest’ has long been seen as an expression of landowners’ efforts to manipulate national sentiment, these developments illustrate the complicated relationship between nature and nation in the late nineteenth century.

KEYWORDS: Forests, property law, nationalism


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