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The Conquest Of Nature

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512 pages


This brilliant new book 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. Beginning in the 1740s with Frederick the Great of Prussia, who regarded the reclamation of marshland as 'conquests from barbarism', we meet Johann Gottfried Tulla, 'the man who tamed the wild Rhine' in the nineteenth century. We learn about the construction of the Prussian port of Wilhelmshaven on the Jade Bay, later to become a symbol of the new Germany's naval ambitions. We witness the colonisation of the moors and the triumph of the steamship. But the dark side of this conquest emerged under the Nazis, who set out to colonise 'living space' in the East. Convinced of their superiority over the 'marsh-dwelling Slavs', the Nazi occupiers of Poland embarked on a programme of population transfer and racial engineering. This physical and ethnic reshaping of the east European landscape would result in the murder of millions of Jews and Poles. Race and reclamation went hand in hand. The modern idea of 'mastery' over nature always had its critics, whether their motives were aesthetic, religious or environmentalist. Germany's defeat in 1945 brought renewed attachment to an idealised natural landscape. The Conquest of Nature is a groundbreaking study that opens new vistas on the history of Germany. It also 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.



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The Conquest Of Nature