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SurroundingsA History of Environments and Environmentalisms$
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Etienne S. Benson

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226706153

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226706320.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 22 September 2021

What Was an Environment?

What Was an Environment?

(p.1) Introduction What Was an Environment?

Etienne S. Benson

University of Chicago Press

This introductory chapter describes the importance of the concept of environment both within and beyond the modern environmental movement, as well as some of the concerns about the concept that have recently been raised by scientists, scholars, and activists. It argues that the history of the word environment in English and related terms in other languages (such as milieu in French and Umwelt in German) shows that the concept emerged in something like its contemporary form in the nineteenth century—that is, long before the emergence of the modern environmental movement in the 1960s and 1970s, but much more recently than concepts such as nature or wilderness with which it is sometimes associated. The chapter describes this book’s approach to the history of the concept of environment, which goes beyond the history of the word to include the technologies and practices that made the concept useful and tangible in a variety of material, social, political, economic, and cultural contexts.

Keywords:   environment, milieu, Umwelt, conceptual history, environmental movement

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