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Imperial Ecology: Environmental Order in the British Empire, 1895-1945by Peder Anker
Synopses & Reviews
From 1895 to the founding of the United Nations in 1945, the promising new science of ecology flourished in the British Empire. Peder Anker asks why ecology expanded so rapidly and how a handful of influential scientists and politicians established a tripartite ecology of nature, knowledge, and society.
Patrons in the northern and southern extremes of the Empire, he argues, urgently needed tools for understanding environmental history as well as human relations to nature and society in order to set policies for the management of natural resources and to effect social control of natives and white settlement. Holists such as Jan Christian Smuts and mechanists such as Arthur George Tansley vied for the right to control and carry out ecological research throughout the British Empire and to lay a foundation of economic and social policy that extended from Spitsbergen to Cape Town.
The enlargement of the field from botany to human ecology required a broader methodological base, and ecologists drew especially on psychology and economy. They incorporated those methodologies and created a new ecological order for environmental, economic, and social management of the Empire.
Book News Annotation:
This history of ecology begins with Eugenius Warming's work on ecology in 1895—and ends with the formation of the UN in 1945, a period in which ecology flourished in the Empire. Anker (philosophy, U. of Oslo) proceeds in chronological order showing ecology expanding out of botany into the study of forests, animals, and finally humans. He also examines two patronage systems, one based in the south Empire which funded the South African botanist and political figure Jan Christian Smuts, and the other, based in the north Empire, which centered on George Tansley. Smuts saw ecology as a system to control material and human resources throughout the Empire while Tansley conceived of a holistic, idealistic ecology that he thought would solve the empire's environmental, social, and racial problems. This fascinating study, a necessary book in the history of ecology, won the History of Science Society's Forum for History of Human Sciences Prize.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From 1895 to the founding of the United Nations in 1945, the promising new science of ecology flourished in the British Empire. Anker asks why ecology expanded so rapidly and how a handful of influential scientists and politicians established a tripartite ecology of nature, knowledge, and society.
2000 History of Science Society's Forum for History of Human Sciences Dissertation Prize
About the Author
Peder Anker is Research Fellow in Philosophy, University of Oslo.
Table of Contents
From Social Psychology to Imperial Ecology
Conclusion: A World without History
What Our Readers Are Saying
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