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The Mountain: A Political History from the Enlightenment to the Present

By: Bernard Debarbieux(Author), Gilles Rudaz(Author), Jane Marie Todd(Translated by), Martin F Price(Foreword By)

354 pages, 25 b/w photos and b/w illustrations, 2 tables

University of Chicago Press

Hardback | Sep 2015 | #224407 | ISBN-13: 9780226031118
Availability: Usually dispatched within 4 days Details
NHBS Price: £37.50 $48/€42 approx

About this book

What is a mountain? Seems like a simple question, right? But if we take the question seriously, the answers turn out to be complicated, wide ranging, and fascinating. In The Mountain, geographers Bernard Debarbieux and Gilles Rudaz trace the origins of the very concept of a mountain, showing how it is not a mere geographic feature, but ultimately an idea, one that has evolved over time, influenced by changes in political climates and cultural attitudes.

To truly understand mountains, they argue, we must view them not only as material realities but as social constructs, ones that can mean radically different things to different people in different settings. From the Enlightenment to the very present days, and thanks to a huge variety of case studies picked up in all the continents, the authors show us how our ideas of and about mountains have changed with the times and how a huge range of policies, from border delineation to forestry as well as nature protection and social policies, have been shaped according to them. A rich hybrid analysis of geography, history, culture, and politics, The Mountain: A Political History from the Enlightenment to the Present promises to forever change the way we look at mountains.

"The Mountain offers an outstanding social and political science approach to mountains. Extending from the Enlightenment to the present day, the authors demonstrate an exceptional familiarity with the literature and recount how mountains, by embracing environment, development, and people, became an integral part of world politics following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the United Nations designation of 2002 as the International Year of Mountains. This book is a tour de force – indispensable for anyone interested in mountains or anyone concerned about the future of our world."
– Jack D. Ives, United Nations University

"Receding glaciers, threatened freshwater supplies, and high – magnitude catastrophic events are increasingly focusing global attention on the world's high mountain landscapes and people. The Mountain: A Political History from the Enlightenment to the Present is a timely and important contribution to our understanding of how definitions of mountains, their meaning, and perceptions of their value evolved throughout time. It should be required reading for those in the mountain development, conservation, practitioner, and scientific communities alike."
– Alton C. Byers, High Mountains Adaptation Partnership

"With The Mountain, Debarbieux and Rudaz provide a rich offering of facts, anecdotes, and analyses about the role of mountains in international politics and in the imaginations of explorers, scientists, and mountain dwellers. Fascinating and highly readable, this ambitious book will appeal to armchair travelers around the globe, as well as any student of geography, politics, and international development."
– Tim Forsyth, London School of Economics and Political Science


Foreword by Martin F. Price

One / The Mountain as Object of Knowledge

Part I: The Mountain of States and Nations

Two / The Mountain and the Territoriality of the Modern State
Three / The Mountaineer: The Other in the Heart of the Nation, or Its Emblematic Figure?
Four / Politics of Nature
Five / The Mountain as Living Environment

Part II: The Mountain on a Global Scale

Six / The Mountain and Colonial and Postcolonial Territoriality
Seven / Exporting and Acclimatizing Regional Planning Models to the Tropics
Eight / The Globalization of Mountain Issues
Nine / Mountain Men and Women of Globalization
Ten / The EU Mountain: Nowhere to Be Found?
Eleven / The Unifying Mountain


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Bernard Debarbieux is professor of geography and regional planning at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. Gilles Rudaz is a senior lecturer and associate researcher of geography at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and a scientific collaborator at the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment.

Jane Marie Todd has translated some seventy books, including Writing, Law, and Kingship in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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