British Weather and the Climate of Enlightenment
“British Weather and the Climate of Enlightenment explores the study of the weather in eighteenth-century Britain and America to produce a rich and often novel picture of the relationship of human reason to the natural world. The book serves us a model of the cultural history of science and convincingly argues that study of the natural world should be placed at the heart of the modernity of the Enlightenment in general.”—Katharine Anderson, author of Predicting the Weather
Enlightenment inquiries into the weather sought to impose order on a force that had the power to alter human life and social conditions. British Weather and the Climate of Enlightenment reveals how a new sense of the national climate emerged in the eighteenth century from the systematic recording of the weather, and how it was deployed in discussions of the health and welfare of the population. Enlightened intellectuals hailed climate’s role in the development of civilization but acknowledged that human existence depended on natural forces that would never submit to rational control.
Reading the Enlightenment through ideas, beliefs, and practices concerning the weather, Jan Golinski aims to reshape our understanding of the movement and its legacy for modern environmental thinking. With its combination of cultural history and the history of science, British Weather and the Climate of Enlightenment counters the claim that Enlightenment progress set humans against nature, instead revealing that intellectuals of the age drew characteristically modern conclusions about the inextricability of nature and culture.
Jan Golinski is
professor of history and humanities at the
“An excellent book, original in its interpretations and solid in its research. Jan Golinski has written a contextual history of the attitudes of eighteenth-century British people toward the weather, and especially the weather particular to their own island and their colonies. British Weather and the Climate of Enlightenment looks at the cultural place of beliefs about the weather, and practices associated with trying to keep track of it and, perhaps, understanding it. Golinski shows how Enlightenment was brought into everyday life as an ideal or value, in the course of experiencing the weather.”—Mary Terrall, University of California, Los Angeles
“As much as it is on our minds now, interest in the climate has historically reflected concerns about modernity, and reference to it has always implied moral and political, as well as meteorological, conditions. In this nuanced and insightful account, the eminent historian of Enlightenment science and society Jan Golinski reveals how the invention of the science of weather exposed underlying scientific vulnerabilities and social anxieties in the quest to predict and rationalize the climate of the times.”—Brian Dolan, University of California, San Francisco
“In this superb book, eminent historian Jan Golinski demonstrates how scholarly research into the past can illuminate the concerns of the present. Ranging from doctors to diarists, from naturalists to novelists, Golinski explores how British people made weather a national preoccupation during the eighteenth century. Reinterpreting modernity as well as history, Golinski exposes the cultural roots of meteorology to present environmentalism as an Enlightenment product. This is essential reading for appreciating current responses to global warming.”—Patricia Fara, University of Cambridge
The University of Chicago Press