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Invaluable trees

cultures of nature, 1660-1830

Vol. No.
Vol. No.: 


Volume editor(s)
Volume editor(s): 
Laura Auricchio, Elizabeth Heckendorn Cook and Giulia Pacini
Publication Date
Publication Date: 
Price Sterling (£): 

About the Book

About the Book: 

Trees and tree products have long been central to human life and culture, taking on intensified significance during the long eighteenth century. As basic raw material they were vital economic resources, objects of international diplomatic and commercial exchange, and key features in local economies. In an age of ongoing deforestation, both individuals and public entities grappled with the complex issues of how and why trees mattered.

In this interdisciplinary volume, contributors build on recent research in environmental history, literary and material culture, and postcolonial studies to develop new readings of the ways trees were valued in the eighteenth century. They trace changes in early modern theories of resource management and ecology across European and North American landscapes, and show how different and sometimes contradictory practices were caught up in shifting conceptions of nature, social identity, physical health and moral wellbeing.

In its innovative and thought-provoking exploration of man’s relationship with trees, Invaluable trees: cultures of nature, 1660 –1830 argues for new ways of understanding the long eighteenth century and its values, and helps re-frame the environmental challenges of our own time.

Laura Auricchio, Elizabeth Heckendorn Cook and Giulia Pacini, Introduction: invaluable trees

I. Arboreal lives

Hamish Graham, ‘Alone in the forest’? Trees, charcoal and charcoal burners in eighteenth-century France

J. L. Caradonna, Conservationism avant la lettre,? Public essay competitions on forestry and deforestation in eighteenth-century France

Paula Young Lee, Land, logs and liberty: the Revolutionary expansion of the Muséum d’histoire naturelle during the Terror

Peter Mcphee, ‘Cette anarchie dévastatrice’: the légende noire of the French Revolution

Paul Elliott, Erasmus Darwin’s trees

Giulia Pacini, At home with their trees: arboreal beings in the eighteenth-century French imaginary

II. Strategic trees

Elizabeth Heckendorn Cook, The vocal stump: the politics of tree-felling in Swift’s ‘On cutting down the old thorn at Market Hill’

Michael Guenther, Tapping nature’s bounty: science and sugar maples in the age of improvement

Meredith Martin, Bourbon renewal at Rambouillet

Susan Taylor-Leduc, Assessing the value of fruit trees in the marquis de Fontanes’s poem Le Verger

Elizabeth Hyde, Arboreal negotiations, or William Livingston’s American perspective on the cultural politics of trees in the Atlantic world

Lisa Ford, The ‘naturalisation’ of François André Michaux’s North American sylva: patriotism in early American natural history

III. Arboreal enlightenments

Tom Williamson, The management of trees and woods in eighteenth-century England

Steven King, The healing tree

Nicolle Jordan, ‘I writ these lines on the body of the tree’: Jane Barker’s arboreal poetics

Waltraud Maierhofer, Goethe and forestry

Paula R. Backscheider, Disputed value: women and the trees they loved

Aaron S. Allen, ‘Fatto di Fiemme’: Stradivari’s violins and the musical trees of the Paneveggio







The collection ˝focuses on the actual tree, apprehended in its full materiality˝ in lieu of the metaphorical or symbolic treatment of trees, which sets it apart from earlier works of criticism on trees in the eighteenth century

Environmental history

The plurality of the Enlightenment is a key organizing theme: the editors situate the volume within a growing literature that sees vitalism and sentiment in Enlightenment thought alongside detachment and classification.