Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Nature State

The latest English Historical Review has a review by Karen Jones of The Nature State: Rethinking the History of Conservation, edited by Wilko Graf von Hardenberg, Matthew Kelly, Claudia Leal and Emily Wakild (Routledge, 2017). Jones writes:
Building on the work of David Blackbourn, James Scott, Adam Rome, Paul Sutter, and Frank Zelko, the present volume asks us to take a fresh look at the mechanics of power and governmental activity in matters of conservationist enquiry, taking in ideas about global networks, modernity, localism and the politics of negotiation. Implicit here are two concepts: firstly, a challenge to the idea of American hegemony in leading the world in conservation thinking and, secondly, a sense that in embarking on various kinds of environmental governance, state organs were able to propagate their influence and reach. Here the book reveals a foundational tension, arguing for the ‘irregular but near-universal character of the nature state’ (p. 9), while also pointing to the way in which different geographies, constituencies and structures created a site-specific patchwork polity marked by formal and informal demonstrations of authority.
*****
... the book is provocatively, but somewhat deceptively titled. In fact, in the story of environmental resources and political capital set out here across diverse geographies, we find not one state but many, sometimes redoubtable, sometimes hamstrung, and always complicated.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Italian forest commons

As summer bakes Jerusalem and flights are indefinitely suspended, thoughts of Italy's Cadore region, discussed in Giacomo Bonan's The State in the Forest: Contested Commons in the Nineteenth Century Venetian Alp(White Horse Press, 2019), are beguiling. (Bonan wrote an excellent paper, "Confronting Hardin: Trends and Approaches to the Commons in Historiography", for a collection I edited a couple of years ago.) ARO recently published a review by Richard H√∂lzl of the book; some excerpts:
At the center of Bonan’s book are the Alpine valleys of the Cadore, a region in the Eastern Italian Alps to the North of Venice and bordering on Alto Adige/South Tirol and Austria. The region came under the rule of the Serenissima of Venice in the early fifteenth century and remained so until its fall in 1797. After the brief but very important period of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, it was part of the Habsburg Empire from 1815 to 1866, when the Veneto was annexed to the new Kingdom of Italy. Since the thirteenth century the families of the Cadore, constituted as the Community of the Cadore, organized the local forests and their exploitation as commons under a system known as regole. Regole initially meant regular decision-making at assemblies by the heads of the households of several Cadore villages, who also appointed officers to enforce regulations of communal life. With the increasing success of Venice as a maritime and commercial power, the forests of the Cadore became of importance to the Venetian economy, as they provided timber for shipbuilding and city extension. Timber entrepreneurs of the Cadore cooperated with Venetian merchants and established a vibrant business that also dominated the income and livelihoods of the local households of the Cadore. Timber trade provided decently paid labor for members of every household and subsidized food imports to the mountain valleys, which did not support much agriculture. It also resulted in considerable population growth before and after 1800. Moreover, it furthered the stratification of local society in wealthy timber entrepreneurs, established families who claimed access to and common ownership of forests, and a class of newcomers and landless without such benefits.
The Napoleonic Age brought fundamental changes to this system – changes, which lasted the better part of the nineteenth century and had the established families of the Cadore look back nostalgically on the seemingly good old times, when the regole system was intact and the timber trade supported communities and households well. The advent of modern forestry in the Napoleonic and Austrian period meant that regional and central administrative officers were tasked with supervising the felling process as well as introducing new cutting and conservation measures. The administrative elite in Venice adopted the new scholarship on forests which emerged out of France and Germany and attempted to implement it on Venetian territory.
The Cadore, however, is an interesting exception to the general trend to abolish and privatize the forest commons in the early nineteenth century. Rather than abolishing the commons, the successive administrations tried to modernize their administration by transferring the management from the regole and villages to larger municipalities and regional forest authorities, and by using the profits from the forest commons for road building and schools, rather than supplementing food import. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Control of outdoor advertising

The Historical Journal recently published James Greenhalgh's "The Control of Outdoor Advertising, Amenity, and Urban Governance in Britain, 1893–1962". The abstract:
This article examines the control of outdoor advertising in Britain, tracking its development as a mirror of the practices of spatial governance. It evidences both a largely forgotten, yet radical change in the urban environment, whilst also functioning as a lens through which we might examine local government's role in driving change in the visual environment of cities and towns. The article argues that, despite important early work by preservationist organizations, local corporations and councils were the principal drivers of legislation, altering attitudes in central government that ultimately led to stringent control of outdoor advertising in urban space. Beginning in the nineteenth century, but coming to the fore during the interwar period, corporations and councils pushed for ever greater controls over the size and siting of billboards, hoardings, and posters. In doing so, they deployed a language of amenity, and conjured with seemingly social democratic notions of citizens’ rights to push their agenda. The study is thus revealing of the ways in which town planning, patterns of holistic control in the visual environment, and the philosophy of urban modernism shaped even the most mundane, extant urban areas and left a lasting impression on the urban landscape.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Historic Spanish conservation laws

The US Library of Congress's online Herencia collection, containing royal decrees, papal bulls, legal opinions, judgments, and royal orders from Spain from the 15th through the 19th centuries, has recently been running a crowdsourcing project to review transcriptions of the historic documents.

Two collections that might interest readers of this blog are the collections of laws and statutes on agriculture, conservation, hunting, and fishing, and that on disease and public health law.
Royal Order of December 12, 1748 concerning the conservation of forests and plantations (LOC)

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Cigarette: A Political History


The Cigarette: A Political History (Harvard UP, 2019) by Sarah Milov, co-founder of this blog, was recently reviewed by Reuel Schiller for Jotwell. Schiller writes that Milov's "narrative weaves together legal, political, and economic history in a manner that calls for a revaluation of the dimensions of twentieth-century liberalism and the nature of its decline. The book is a compelling exercise in historical synecdoche: its subject is the political history of the cigarette, but its story is that of the twentieth-century American state." Further excerpts:

Frankly, one could teach a course on twentieth-century legal history using this book as a textbook. It speaks to a broad range of subjects central to the interests of legal historians: the role of law in constituting capitalism; the interaction of law, gender, and race in the construction of social movements; the simultaneously emancipatory and constraining potential of framing policy preferences as rights; the profound role of the administrative state in structuring politics and policy; the rise of public interest litigation; the importance of understanding the legal history of agriculture, a field sorely neglected by legal historians. While different readers will find different analytic points particularly compelling, two stand out for me.

First, Milov’s narrative suggests the need to reevaluate the postwar state’s legal and political contours. For readers familiar with early New Deal policies such as the National Industrial Recovery Act and its industry-written “codes of fair competition,” American tobacco policy is familiar. It was “associationalism” — an interweaving of public and private power that obscured the extent to which private institutions acted as vehicles for public policy. In the traditional narrative of the New Deal, associationalism ended with the political and legal demise of the National Recovery Administration in 1935. Joining scholars such as Brian Balogh, Milov shows how, in fact, associationalism outlasted the NRA and became an integral component of postwar state. Far from being replaced by the light touch of Keynesian fiscal policy, Milov shows how producer-oriented associationalism melded with consumer-oriented Keynsianism to give an alliance of corporate and state interests an active role in structuring the post-war economy as it simultaneously created an illusion of statelessness.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Chinese environmental regulation in the 1970s and '80s

Pollution in China (credit: Anjali aisha)
Just appearing online in Environment and History is an artcile by Yun Liu, "Voices of Protest Against Industrial Pollution in Hubei, China, During the 1970s and 1980s". The abstract:
This article examines local official records to find voices of protest against industrial pollution in Hubei, China, during its early reform era from the 1970s to the 1980s. Archival evidence from unpublished official documents indicates that to some extent local officers responded to citizens’ petitions against two main forms of industrial pollution: air pollution and soil pollution. Air pollution mostly affected urban residents but elicited more contention. Soil pollution got comparatively less exposure but caused more direct damage to impacted peasants. Both rural and urban victims of industrial pollution projected their own voices of protest typically by submitting group-authored and signed or anonymous whistle-blowing letters. Protests against pollution emerged with inter-group conflict negotiation in public or semi-public venues as well as in local investigation reports. The findings discussed here help to explain how local environmental governance evolved through increasing public awareness at subnational levels in China’s early reform years.

Monday, June 1, 2020

The environment in Dan Ernst's legal history exam

Dan Ernst (Georgetown Law) regularly posts a long exam question from his legal history course at Legal History Blog. This year's question was on federal grazing policy in the US. Some excerpts:
One of the Forest Service’s first projects was to subject stockmen used to roaming the mountains at will to the principles of forestry.  To develop and defend the new regulations, Pinchot hired, as chief legal officer of the Forest Service, an able and imaginative lawyer, who was personally indebted to him for, among other things, lending him money in the past.  The chief legal officer, who reported directly to Pinchot rather that the more politically connected Solicitor of USDA, soon worked out an ingenious constitutional justification for criminal enforcement of the grazing regulation, turning in part on the claim that the use of the public domain was not a private right but merely a privilege.  In 1908, Pinchot’s lawyer convinced the Department of Justice to bring a test case against a sheepherder named Pierre Grimaud.  A federal district judge ruled that the prosecution violated the nondelegation doctrine.  On direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices at first deadlocked, 4-4.  Pinchot was unfazed.  “I hold it to be the first duty of the public officer to obey the law,” he explained, “but I hold it to be his second duty, and a close second, to do everything the law will let him do for the public good.”  After Charles Evans Hughes and another justice joined the Court, Grimaud was reargued, and, in 1911, the Court upheld the prosecution.  The Forestry Service immediately brought scores of criminal prosecutions, and, by 1912, USDA could report that overgrazing in the forest reserves had ended.
*****
In 1934, the Colorado Cattleman’s Association sent [Farrington] Carpenter to Washington, DC, to lobby Congress to add beef cattle to the Agricultural Adjustment Act’s list of “basic agricultural commodities” and permit them to enter into marketing agreements controlling cattle prices.  Having succeeded, Carpenter stopped by his Congressman Taylor’s office to say his goodbyes, just as the grazing act was having a hearing.  Realizing that Carpenter would be an effective witness and learning that he did not think the public domain should be turned over to the states, Taylor asked him to testify.  (Carpenter was no fan of national power, but he believed that once the land was devolved to the states, different grazing interests would capture different state legislatures and produce an unworkable patchwork of regulation.)  Before the House committee, Carpenter spoke for small-scale cattle stockmen such as himself, plagued by nomadic sheep herds and pushed off public domain by larger cattle outfits.  Federal control was the small stockman’s only chance to avoid being “completely wiped out of existence,” he testified.
When, a few months later, [Secretary of the Interior] Ickes’s undersecretary offered Carpenter the directorship of the new Grazing Division created within the department to enforce the Taylor Grazing Act, Carpenter warned that sheep herders would object to his appointment because he was known as a champion of cattlemen in his corner of Colorado.  He claimed also to have said that he did not intend to create “a great centralized bureau” like the Forest Service, “run by Eastern people who know little about the public domain.”  After consulting a government official who once represented sheep herders, Ickes decided Carpenter would treat them fairly.  Whether Carpenter’s other warning registered with the Interior Secretary Ickes is not known. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Video of the colloquium on the legal history of epidemics

This past Monday's colloquium on the legal history of epidemics went well, I thought. The speakers (Mario Ascheri, Tamara Morsel-Eisenberg, Noga Morag-Levine, Alex Chase-Levenson, Felice Batlan, and John Witt) were really interesting, and the questions from the audience led to some more interesting discussion.

The video of the event (with transcript) is available here.
Work on the bibliography of the legal history of epidemics is ongoing - please send me your suggestions for further sources.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Colloquium: Legal history of epidemics

(Update: Video of the colloquium here.)

Next Monday, 25 May, the David Berg Foundation Institute for Law and History at Tel Aviv University will host an online colloquium on the legal history of epidemics. 

The program:

Session 1 (15:00 GMT/11:00 EDT):

Mario Ascheri (Rome 3): Treatises on Plague Law in the Italian Renaissance
Tamara Morsel-Eisenberg (Harvard): Early Modern Jewish Legal Sources on Epidemics
Noga Morag-Levine (Michigan State): Pestilence and Governance in Early Modern England
Alex Chase-Levenson (Penn): Lazaretto Law in the Early Nineteenth-Century Mediterranean
Felice Batlan (Chicago-Kent): Rights, Quarantines, and Inequality in U.S. History
John Witt (Yale): American Contagions: A Short History of Law and Democracy in Crisis

Session 2 (16:15 GMT/12:15 EDT):

Roundtable discussion: Issues and challenges in the legal history of epidemics
Moderator: David Schorr (Tel Aviv)


To receive a link and password, please register by emailing the address in the image above.

(The Berg Institute's bibliography on the topic is here.)

Monday, May 4, 2020

The law of necessity

Ely Cathedral and the fens
A new article by John Collins in Past & Present, "The Long Parliament and the Law of Necessity in Seventeenth-Century England", highlights the importance of claims of necessity in the history of environmental law. As necessity is also one of the foundations of much of the law made around historical epidemics, the topic is particularly timely. An excerpt from the article (notes omitted):
Narratives of perpetual necessity aroused concern in the early seventeenth century. Sir Edward Coke, for example, was worried about the power that the commissioners of sewers possessed over property in the Case of the Isle of Ely of 1609. The famed jurist heard these arguments while he was chief justice of the common pleas, a position he had obtained in 1606. This case was just one of several involving the ambitious undertakers of the English fens who sought, through mechanical improvements, to obtain control over the flood waters that engulfed the low-lying regions around Ely, in order to create productive, and enclosed, farmland. Their pursuits put them squarely at odds with those who wanted to keep the fens as they were so they could continue to enjoy public rights in the marshlands, with inhabitants from surrounding regions who did not want to pay the taxes required for the building of the pumps and dykes, and sometimes with landholders who had parts of their property expropriated so that the dykes could be built.
Legal cases arose over the statutes that authorized the commissioners of sewers. As David Chan Smith has so carefully shown in his recent book on Edward Coke’s jurisprudence, conflicts arose over ‘how taxes should be assessed to pay for sewer works and whether the commissioners had the power to direct the creation of new works’. The particular background to the Ely case involved a group of projectors who, in 1605, were going to drain the fens around Ely and pay for it either through direct or indirect expropriation of lands. While the commissioners of sewers decreed the project legal, the 1607 parliament had refused to sanction it.
In a reversal of previous judgements friendly to the discretionary powers of the commissioners, Coke attempted to bind them through a restrictive definition of necessity. For Coke, the commissioners of sewers could not tax English subjects unless there was an ‘inevitable necessity’ that mandated the construction of dykes, walls or other technologies to defend the land against floodwaters. Innovation was not included in Coke’s narrative of necessity. He only allowed taxation or the expropriation of property for the repair of pre-existing dykes or walls. For Coke, it was only for the sake of a structure that defended the English countryside against inevitable danger — a danger that was not presently visible but would assuredly manifest itself in the future, as the English knew from flood patterns and ocean forces through hundreds of years of experience — that the commissioners of sewers could transform the property of English subjects to achieve the preservation of the commonwealth. If any type of actual innovation was going to be made, the houses of parliament needed to approve it.
In many ways, Coke was an exceptional figure within the English legal community, as those judges who ruled before him on the various statutes of sewers and those who read after him, most notably Robert Callis, did not agree with his restrictive understanding of necessity. For Callis, who gave a reading on Henry VIII’s statute on sewers in 1622 at Gray’s Inn, Coke’s ruling did not fully appreciate the equity embedded in the powers given to the commissioners of sewers. Because their work was of such a ‘great and urgent necessity and use for the good of the whole Commonwealth of the Realm’, the intent ‘maybe extended in exposition beyond the letter of the words’. An equitable reading of the statute allowed judges to ‘inlarge the letter of the Law in the sence of construction, because it tends so much to the advancement of the Commonwealth’. For Callis (who in all likelihood stood to gain from the drainage projects), the soul of the law allowed for new projects even while its strict wording did not. Callis’s reading, at least in 1622, was the legal victor. Stuart lawyers in general allowed a relatively wide latitude when it came to the application of the law of necessity. Utility and improvement, as well as preservation, fitted into their narrative of necessity, which in turn provided those empowered to utilize such narratives a broad remit to generate novel positive laws.