Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History


European History



First Advisor

Michael Ortiz


This thesis argues that state forestry programs in nineteenth-century France failed to produce adequate conservation systems, resulting in the devastation of the natural world. After the revolutionary era, a highly centralized and technocratic state attempted to solve old environmental problems with modernized solutions. This tension between old and new ways of thinking reached a watershed moment during the middle of the nineteenth century, when Romantic and Enlightenment worldviews clashed within the environmental theater of state forestry. This confrontation radically transformed how the French perceived and interacted with nature. Concepts such as radical empiricism, biological evolution, and natural theology became cultural and intellectual battlegrounds, while fundamental environmental and scientific misconceptions became prevalent in society. In a pre-Darwinian context, environmental policymakers were under the impression that nature did not evolve but rather remained static. As debates over nature and ecology took place, the French often confused scientific inquiry for historical or political convenience, transforming society's conceptualization of nature from an idealized understanding to a utilitarian one. To date, the literature examining French state forestry has failed to analyze its intellectual and cultural dimensions. This thesis explores environmental policy through these lenses, broadening our understanding of nineteenth century French forestry.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
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