Nature

Nature : Western Attitudes Since Ancient Times

3.44 (18 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

'Nature' is a deceptively simple and ahistorical term, suggesting intrinsic, unchanging reality. Yet nature has a history too, both in terms of human attitudes and human impacts. Coates outlines the major understandings of 'nature' in the western world since classical times, from nature as higher authority to its more recent meaning of threatened physical space and life forms. Unlike many others, this book places the history of attitudes to nature within the story of human-induced changes in the material environment. And few others take a supranational perspective, or cross the divides between historical eras. A distinctive unifying theme is Coates's interest in how 'green' writers over the last thirty years have interpreted our past dealings with nature, specifically their efforts to diagnose the roots of contemporary ecological problems and their search for ancestors. He concludes with a discussion of the future of nature in the context of developments such as the 'new' ecology, global warming, advances in genetic engineering and research on animal behaviour. Assuming no previous knowledge, Nature provides the reader with an accessible synthesis and introduction to some of environmental history's central features and debates, confirming its status as one of the most enthralling current pursuits within historical studies. This will be essential reading for second-year undergraduates and above in cultural history and environmental history, as well as to the general reader interested in environmental issues.show more

Product details

  • Electronic book text | 256 pages
  • John Wiley and Sons Ltd
  • Polity Press
  • United Kingdom
  • 0745665977
  • 9780745665979

Review quote

-Common green wisdom attributes modern treatment of the environment to all sorts of legacies from history, usually Western, Judaeo-Christian and capitalist. Peter Coates examines all the usual suspects, from the Ancient Greeks, to Renaissance man and the thinkers of the Enlightenment, and no less critically the usual eco-heroes, from St Francis and the Zen Buddhists to the American Indians. He places shifting ideas and attitudes in the full and proper context of their time, and rightly condemns the tendency to raid the past for handy quotations to legitimize the campaigns of the present. He shows us how landscapes in England and elsewhere are related to these ideas, particularly show pieces like National Trust properties and American National Parks, but they are often landscapes of dispossession as well as landscapes of conservation. He takes us into the immediate antecedents of modern environmentalism and shows us a green side to Engels and (alarmingly) to Himmler as well as to Wordsworth and William Morris. Always judicious, Peter Coates's book will prove the best possible guide to the history of environmental ideas. Anyone who seriously wants to find a way through the maze of the past and to judge how we have arrived at the present and who prizes scholarship above polemics, will need to read this book.- Professor T. C. Smout, Institute for Environmental History, University of St Andrews -For some years it has struck me as intriguing that there is no good recent history of nature - though in a sense hardly surprising since one could not imagine a more daunting subject for a historian to tackle.... I am delighted to say that Peter Coates's text fills the bill particularly well: it is clear, cogent, comprehensive, and well organized.... This is a stunning book.- Roy Porter, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine -I am very impressed with this book. It offers much more depth on most of the historical periods than any other book I've read.... and I couldn't stop reading it.- Michael Barbour, University of California, -Peter Coates's Nature is an engaging book, written in a lucid and accessible style and enlivened by the author's wry humour.- Professor Peter Burke, Emmanuel College, Cambridge -Coates' prose is lively and his critical perspactive engaging...students and general readers will find this an enjoyable and thought-provoking introduction to some of the key ideas and debates within environmental history.- Andrea Gaynor, University of Western Australia 'Peter Coates's book is a welcome, updated introduction to environmental history. Presuming no prior knowledge of the field on the part of his readers, Coates confirms the discipline's -status as one of the most enthralling...pursuits within historical studies- (p.viii). Though faced with a monumental task of synthesis - even within a considerably narrowed scope - Coates succeeds admirably.' Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences "Common green wisdom attributes modern treatment of the environment to all sorts of legacies from history, usually Western, Judaeo-Christian and capitalist. Peter Coates examines all the usual suspects, from the Ancient Greeks, to Renaissance man and the thinkers of the Enlightenment, and no less critically the usual eco-heroes, from St Francis and the Zen Buddhists to the American Indians. He places shifting ideas and attitudes in the full and proper context of their time, and rightly condemns the tendency to raid the past for handy quotations to legitimize the campaigns of the present. He shows us how landscapes in England and elsewhere are related to these ideas, particularly show pieces like National Trust properties and American National Parks, but they are often landscapes of dispossession as well as landscapes of conservation. He takes us into the immediate antecedents of modern environmentalism and shows us a green side to Engels and (alarmingly) to Himmler as well as to Wordsworth and William Morris. Always judicious, Peter Coates's book will prove the best possible guide to the history of environmental ideas. Anyone who seriously wants to find a way through the maze of the past and to judge how we have arrived at the present and who prizes scholarship above polemics, will need to read this book." Professor T. C. Smout, Institute for Environmental History, University of St Andrews "For some years it has struck me as intriguing that there is no good recent history of nature - though in a sense hardly surprising since one could not imagine a more daunting subject for a historian to tackle.... I am delighted to say that Peter Coates's text fills the bill particularly well: it is clear, cogent, comprehensive, and well organized.... This is a stunning book." Roy Porter, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine "I am very impressed with this book. It offers much more depth on most of the historical periods than any other book I've read.... and I couldn't stop reading it." Michael Barbour, University of California, "Peter Coates's Nature is an engaging book, written in a lucid and accessible style and enlivened by the author's wry humour." Professor Peter Burke, Emmanuel College, Cambridge "Coates' prose is lively and his critical perspactive engaging...students and general readers will find this an enjoyable and thought-provoking introduction to some of the key ideas and debates within environmental history." Andrea Gaynor, University of Western Australia 'Peter Coates's book is a welcome, updated introduction to environmental history. Presuming no prior knowledge of the field on the part of his readers, Coates confirms the discipline's "status as one of the most enthralling...pursuits within historical studies" (p.viii). Though faced with a monumental task of synthesis - even within a considerably narrowed scope - Coates succeeds admirably.' Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciencesshow more

About Peter Coates

Peter Coates is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Bristol.show more

Table of contents

Preface. 1. The Natures of Nature. 2. Ancient Greece and Rome. 3. The Middle Ages. 4. The Advent of Modernity. 5. The World Beyond Europe. 6. Nature as Landscape. 7. Reassessments of Nature: Romantic and Ecological. 8. The Disunited Colours of Nature. 9. The Future of Nature. Notes. Index.show more

Rating details

18 ratings
3.44 out of 5 stars
5 22% (4)
4 28% (5)
3 33% (6)
2 6% (1)
1 11% (2)
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