Books  Regional Natural History  Europe 

The Dawn of Green: Manchester, Thirlmere, and Modern Environmentalism

By: Harriet Ritvo

237 pages, figs, photos

University of Chicago Press

Hardback | Oct 2009 | #180710 | ISBN-13: 9780226720821
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NHBS Price: £17.99 $22/€20 approx

About this book

Located in the heart of England's Lake District, Thirlmere, with its placid sheen, surrounding evergreens, and apparent lack of pollution or development, seems to epitomize the unadulterated bucolic ideal. But under its calm surface lurks the enduring legacy of a nineteenth-century conflict that pitted industrial progress against natural conservation - and helped launch the environmental movement as we know it. Purchased by the city of Manchester in the 1870s, Thirlmere was dammed and converted into a reservoir, its water piped one hundred miles south to the burgeoning industrial center and its workforce. This feat of civil engineering - and of natural resource diversion - inspired one of the first environmental struggles of modern times.

"The Dawn of Green" recreates the battle for Thirlmere and the clashes between conservationists who wished to preserve the lake and developers eager to meet the needs of industry and a growing urban population. Bringing to vivid life the colorful and strong-minded characters who populated both sides of the debate, noted historian Harriet Ritvo revisits notions of the natural promulgated by Romantic poets, recreationists, resource managers, and industrial developers to establish Thirlmere as the template for subsequent - and continuing - environmental struggles. A century after Thirlmere, the demand for water and the control of water rights are among the most pressing political, humanitarian, and environmental concerns of our time. By investigating Victorian ideas about industry, development, and technology, Ritvo shows how the lessons learned in the Lake District can inform and guide modern environmental and conservation campaigns.

This is the first detailed study of a pathbreaking late nineteenth-century controversy about whether to turn a lake in England's most scenic district into a reservoir to provide water for the fast-growing industrial city of Manchester. The debate over Thirlmere pitted nature against progress, a conflict that has become common in the century since. Ritvo tells the story with skill and insight, and The Dawn of Green will be widely read. - Adam Rome, author of The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism"


Introduction One The Unspoiled Lake Two The Dynamic City Three The Struggle for Possession Four The Cup and the Lip Five The Harvest of Thirlmere Epilogue Acknowledgments Notes Bibliography Illustration Credits Index

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Harriet Ritvo is the Arthur J. Conner Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of The Platypus and the Mermaid, and Other Figments of Classifying Imagination and The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age.

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