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Enlightenment's Frontier looks at the eighteenth-century Scottish Enlightenment – which gave birth to modern-day environmentalism – and sheds new light on Scottish thinkers such as Carl Linneaus, David Hume and Adam Smith. In this groundbreaking new book, Fredrik Albritton Jonsson argues that Smith's defence of free markets was actually based on idealized notions of self-regulating natural systems. He explores Smith's liberal view of the fragile environment and compares it with rival interpretations of natural order, which stressed the need for governance. The Enlightenment was a time of great advancement in Scotland, scientifically, economically and otherwise, with nationwide literacy rates soaring above 75 percent. Jonsson argues that the mountainous highlands contributed greatly to the thinking during this time, inspiring a forgotten link between nature and virtue. He examines three key themes – population politics, internal colonization, and natural history – and says debates about the natural world influenced all three.
Fredrik Albritton Jonsson is an assistant professor of British history at the University of Chicago. This is his first book, which he researched in Edinburgh, Stockholm and London.
"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
"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
"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
"This scholarly publication will appeal to anybody interested in the natural and social history of the Scottish Highlands."
– Mary Miers, Country Life