Forests in Revolutionary France
Conservation, Community, and Conflict, 1669-1848
Cambridge University Press 2015
New Books in Environmental StudiesNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in French StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books Network August 3, 2016 Roxanne Panchasi
Kieko Matteson’s Forests in Revolutionary France: Conservation, Community, and Conflict, 1669-1848 (Cambridge University Press, 2015) is an impressive study of the economic and political vitality of the forest, from the reign of Louis XIV through the middle of the nineteenth century. Focusing on the Franche-Comte region, the book explores the meanings and values of the forest to a range of stakeholders– the state, landowners, manufacturers, and peasants–all of whom sought varying modes and degrees of control over Frances woodland resources and spaces. Examining key moments in the states attempt to manage the forest, the book pays close attention to local forms of response and resistance to interventions such as the Ordinance of 1669 and the Forest Code of 1827.
Revealing the deeply political significance of environmental resources and concerns throughout a period of revolutionary upheaval, including shifts from monarchy to republic to empire, and back again, Forests in Revolutionary France is a book that reminds us of the connections and tensions between the histories of central authorities and everyday lives, between private and public interests, and between tradition and modernity in the discourses and practices of conservation, community, and property over two centuries. Examining the long and complex history that notions of preservation and degradation have had in France, as elsewhere, the book also contributes to our understanding of contemporary concerns over the uses and abuses of the forest in an era of increasing awareness of climate change and the need for more sustainable alternatives to existing/previous approaches to the natural environment.