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  • Published: 30 November 2011
  • ISBN: 9781448114214
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 512

The Conquest Of Nature

Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany

History takes place in space as well as time. This brilliant book tells the story of how the German landscape was dramatically reshaped in the two hundred years from Frederick the Great to Adolf Hitler.

The modern idea of 'mastery' over nature always had its critics, whether their motives were aesthetic, religious or environmentalist. By investigating how the most fundamental element - water - was 'conquered' by draining fens and marshes, straightening the courses of rivers, building high dams and exploiting hydro-electric power, The Conquest of Nature explores how over the last 250 years, the German people have shaped their natural environment and how the landscapes they created took a powerful hold on the German imagination.

From Frederick the Great of Prussia to Johann Gottfried Tulla, 'the man who tamed the wild Rhine' in the nineteenth century to Otto Intze, 'master dambuilder' of the years around 1900, to the Nazis who set out to colonise 'living space' in the East, this groundbreaking study shows that while mastery over nature delivers undoubted benefits, it has often come at a tremendous cost to both the natural environment and human life.

  • Published: 30 November 2011
  • ISBN: 9781448114214
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 512

About the author

David Blackbourn

David Blackbourn has been Professor of History and Head of the Centre for European Studies at Harvard University since 1994. He is the author of The Fontana History of Germany in the 19th Century and Marpingen.

Praise for The Conquest Of Nature

Startlingly original... This is history at its most synoptic, weaving together disparate themes in a counterpoint of science and aesthetics, race and reclamation, hydrology and mythology

Daniel Johnson, Sunday Times

This book offers a fresh insight into this passage of German history and will interest engineers, ecologists, economists, politicians and historians alike


Sublimely good... Blackbourn has found an original and suggestive way into the history of both Germany's aggrandisement and its humility... far more than a good book on an out-of-the-way subject

The Economist

David Blackbourn has written an entertainingly original history, rich in insights into man and nature and the German - in fact, the European - mind

Mark Kurlansky, bestselling author of Cod

Brilliantly conceived, David Blackbourn's thought-provoking exploration of the ambivalence built into past attempts to exploit the environment offers a wholly novel approach to understanding modern German history. His book is a tour de force in historical writing

Ian Kershaw

A wide-ranging and highly original study... Blackbourn weaves elegantly among the disciplines, integrating the histories of science, technology, politics, diplomacy, culture and ecology into a nuanced and many-layered analysis of change

Christopher Clark, Times Literary Supplement

A significant contribution to new ways of writing about the past… magnificently compelling

Neal Ascherson, London Review of Books

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