Friday, August 23, 2013

Constitution and environment in the graveyard of history

Where do constitutional history and environmental history meet? In cemeteries, it turns out.

from Environmental History
Al Brophy recently posted "'These great and beautiful republics of the dead': Public Constitutionalism and the Antebellum Cemetery", in which he argues for the importance of cemeteries in American constitutional discourse. (This is not Brophy's first foray into environmental aspects of legal history; see his "Property and Progress: Antebellum Landscape Art and Property Law".)

Readers of Environmental History may remember Aaron Sachs's 2010 article, "American Arcadia: Mount Auburn Cemetery and the Nineteenth-Century Landscape Tradition", in which he explores the "flowering of a landscape tradition in the antebellum period that was characterized by a simultaneous engagement with mortality and with the immediate environmental context of ordinary life, by an ecological ethic based on humility, finitude, and integration". (See also Sachs's recently published Arcadian America: The Death and Life of an Environmental Tradition (Yale UP, 2013).)

Interestingly, both articles highlight Boston's Mount Auburn Cemetery (pictured here). Unfortunately, this seems to be yet another case where the disciplines of environmental history and legal history are talking past each other. Time for a dialogue!

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