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.
One The Unspoiled Lake
Two The Dynamic City
Three The Struggle for Possession
Four The Cup and the Lip
Five The Harvest of Thirlmere
Harriet Ritvo is the Arthur J. Conner Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of The Platypus and the Mermaid: And Other Figments of the Classifying Imagination; The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age; and Noble Cows and Hybrid Zebras: Essays on Animals and History.
"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
"A closely researched, sensitively observed, and handsomely illustrated study [...] This is a gem of a book, enhanced by prose as crystal clear as Thirlmere's fabled waters."
– Peter Coates, Environmental History
"[Ritvo's] book conveys in vividly minute particulars how difficult and frustrating the campaign must have been, and how divided the campaigners were in their loyalties. Without such detail, lessons cannot be learnt. Nor is documentation allowed to obscure the larger picture. Ritvo shows the whole business to be, in contrary ways, representative of its times: 'if Manchester was the icon of the Victorian future, the Lake District was the icon of nature, poetry and heritage.'"
– Times Higher Education