Caroline Ford'sNatural Interests: The Contest over Environment in Modern France(Harvard University Press, 2016) explores the roots of French environmental consciousness in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Far from being a product of the postwar environmental movement, Ford shows how French society began to understand how humans adversely affected their surroundings during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Popular writers like Francois-Antoine Rauch demonstrated how deforestation altered the climate and damaged the habitability of the nation. War, revolution, and a series of devastating floods brought the questions of deforestation, urbanization, and industrial capitalism into conflict with the finite resources of nature. Public worries over resource depletion and climate change mingled with a new bourgeois consciousness developing in the nineteenth century. France's countryside became a place of romantic longing for families, a source of inspiration for artists, and an important symbol of national pride. Historical landmarks became sites of a unique French heritage to be preserved and protected for future generations. Empire also became a site of environmental sensitivity, where the conflicting interests of Europeans and colonized peoples played out through discourses of conservation and ecological change in French Algeria.
James Esposito is a historian and researcher interested in digital history, empire, and the history of technology. James can be reached via email at email@example.com and on Twitter @james_esposito_