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Enlightenment’s Frontier is the first book to investigate the environmental roots of the Scottish Enlightenment. What was the place of the natural world in Adam Smith’s famous defense of free trade? Fredrik Albritton Jonsson recovers the forgotten networks of improvers and natural historians that sought to transform the soil, plants, and climate of Scotland in the eighteenth century. The Highlands offered a vast outdoor laboratory for rival liberal and conservative views of nature and society. But when the improvement schemes foundered toward the end of the century, northern Scotland instead became a crucible for anxieties about overpopulation, resource exhaustion, and the physical limits to economic growth. In this way, the rise and fall of the Enlightenment in the Highlands sheds new light on the origins of environmentalism.
“Enlightenment’s Frontier is a wonderful work of environmental, intellectual and social history, which will change historical understanding of eighteenth-century Scotland and illuminate contemporary choices about energy and sustainability.”—Emma Rothschild, Harvard University
— Emma Rothschild
“A lively work, written with subtlety, some considerable humor, and always conscious of its contemporary relevance . . . this volume should be read by those with an interest in the history of enlightenment thought, empire and science, development ideology, and environmentalism.”—Paul Warde, University of East Anglia
— Paul Warde
“An important and interesting book and one that should speak to different historical scholars—of Enlightenment, of intellectual history, of British and Scottish history.”—Charles W. J. Withers, University of Edinburgh
— Charles W J Withers
“This nuanced study is a model of intellectual and environmental history.”—Environmental History
— Environmental History
“[Jonsson’s] learned and lucidly written book will draw other scholars’ attention to the period when enlightened Scots looked northward with a mixture of nostalgia, puzzlement, and trepidation.”—Journal of British Studies
— Journal of British Studies
“One of the most interesting books published on the Scottish Enlightenment in some time . . . For those interested in the Enlightenment, environmentalism, and eighteenth-century Scotland, this is a book to be read.”—American Historical Review
— American Historical Review
“An insightful interpretation of how the Highlands served as a focal point for the environmental reflections of naturalists and politicians.”—Eighteenth-Century Studies
— Eighteenth-Century Studies