Cover image for Nature : western attitudes since ancient times
Nature : western attitudes since ancient times
Coates, Peter A., 1957-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
viii, 246 pages ; 24 cm
The natures of nature -- Ancient Greece and Rome -- The middle ages -- The advent of modernity -- The world beyond Europe -- Nature as landscape -- Reassessments of nature: romantic and ecological -- The disunited colours of nature -- The future of nature.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QH81 .C59 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In an advertisement for water filter cartridges, we see a tumbling waterfall. The caption reads, "Like nature, Brita is beautifully simple." What kind of thinking is this? Is nature an objective reality that, in its beautiful simplicity, is unaffected by time, culture, and place? The word nature itself: what do we actually mean by it? These are some of the riveting questions examined by Peter Coates as he demonstrates that nature, like us, has a history of its own. Beginning with Roman times, Coates investigates the ideological and material factors that have influenced human perceptions of, attitudes toward, and uses of nature--notably religion and ethics, science, technology, economics, gender, and ethnicity. Nature is seen among its rich panoply of meanings as a physical place, as the collective phenomena of the world, as an essence or principle that informs the workings of the world, as an inspiration and guide for people and a source of authority governing human affairs, and as the conceptual opposite of culture. By examining these aspects of nature, Coates leads us on a spectacular tour of the central intellectual forces of Western civilization. The book is essential reading for those who seek an understanding of the history of ideas and the role of nature in that history.

Author Notes

Peter Coates is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Bristol.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Nature writing, and particularly the conceptions of "nature" shown in the writings of various cultural traditions, is a popular topic of inquiry today. This particular book has a Western orientation, concentrating on England and the US, although it contains briefer references to Asian and American Indian traditions. Coates (American history, Univ. of Bristol, UK) begins with an examination of various conceptions of nature in Greek, Roman, medieval, Renaissance, and modern thought. He offers very few selections or even quotes from the original sources, preferring to summarize the ideas of various writers. The book is intended for those without previous knowledge of the field, but its emphasis is not primarily on the ideas of historical thinkers; rather, it is a survey of how these ideas are viewed by a variety of modern writers subscribing to differing ideologies. As such, it serves as an introduction to the central ideas and controversies in modern environmental historical writing. No bibliography, but copious endnotes. Recommended for academic and large public libraries. General readers; undergraduate and graduate students. M. MacArthur; University of Colorado at Denver

Table of Contents

1 The Natures of Nature
2 Ancient Greece and Rome
3 The Middle Ages
4 The Advent of Modernity
5 The World Beyond Europe
6 Nature as Landscape
7 Reassessments of Nature: Romantic and Ecological
8 The Disunited Colours of Nature
9 The Future of Nature