The Culture of Nature in Britain, 1680-1860


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P.M. Harman

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This wide-ranging book investigates the emergence of modern ideas about the natural world in Britain from 1680–1860 through an examination of the cultural values common to the sciences, art, literature, and natural theology. During this critical period, spanned by Newtonian science, natural theology, Darwin’s Origin of Species, and Ruskin’s Modern Painters, the fundamental conception of nature and humanity’s place within it changed.


P. M. Harman calls for a new understanding of the varied ways in which the British comprehended natural beauty, from the perception of nature as a “design” flowing from God’s creative power to the Darwinian naturalistic aesthetic. Harman connects a variety of differing views of nature deriving from religion, science, visual art, philosophy, and literature to developments in agriculture, manufacturing, and the daily lives of individuals. This ambitious and accessible book represents intellectual history at its best.


Peter Harman is Professor Emeritus of the history of science at Lancaster University.

‘Richly detailed yet wonderfully readable study.’--Scotsman

"The Culture of Nature in Britain offers a useful synthesis of the thought of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries."—Harriet Ritvo, American Historical Review

"A commendably interdisciplinary study that ignores subsequently imposed boundaries by exploring simultaneously a range of interacting artistic, poetic, scientific, religious, and philosophical responses to the natural world. . . . Harman has produced an accessible yet scholarly example of long overview histories covering both science and the arts."—Patricia Fara, Journal of BJHS

“… [This] will be fascinating reading for all those interested in how nature has been used in cultural debates, both then and now.”—Michael S. Reidy, ISIS Vol.102 No.4

Shortlisted for the 2009 History of Science's Watson Davis Prize for Outstanding Book
ISBN: 9780300151978
Publication Date: December 15, 2009
400 pages, x
17 b/w