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Creating Wilderness: A Transnational History of the Swiss National Park

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Volume 4

Environment in History: International Perspectives

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Creating Wilderness

A Transnational History of the Swiss National Park

Patrick Kupper
Translated from the German by Giselle Weiss

276 pages, 20 illus., 2 tables, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-373-4 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (July 2014)

eISBN 978-1-78238-374-1 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook from these vendors Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


Winner of the Turku Book Prize of the European Society for Environmental History and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.

“Well tied into the literature of national park studies worldwide, this exquisite book… chronicles the unique Swiss experience in creating and managing a national park in which wilderness was nonexistent… Highly recommended.” · Choice

“Kupper effectively links the specific case of Switzerland with globalization and Westernization, international conservation paradigms, the social construction of wilderness, and an evolving understanding of ecosystem dynamics and the science of conservation.” · Mountain Research and Development

“Readers interested in early twentieth-century Swiss conservation (especially its international connections), the bureaucracy of setting up a new national park (particularly one based on a new, science-focused national park idea), and theoretical ideas about the constructed nature of national parks and wilderness will find reward in this work.” · The Public Historian

Creating Wilderness is a detailed and thought-provoking historical analysis of the origins and development of the Swiss National Park.” · Mountain Research and Development

“National parks have long been a favoured  subject for environmental histories, as microcosms where the interaction of nature, science, politics and leisure can be observed. By linking the Swiss National Park with developments elsewhere in the world, Kupper has delivered an important contribution to this literature…Kupper has provided a comprehensive  account of the development of the Swiss National Park as well as a fascinating reinterpretation of the national park as a transnational phenomenon  in the twentieth century.” · German History

“This is environmental history of the first order, ranging widely across geographical scales and historical periods to trace the changing discourses and manifestations of the national park model. Kupper convincingly proves that the Swiss national parks, while inspired by the global movement sparked by the creation of the American national parks in the late 19th century, quickly established themselves as a countermodel to the American national parks, and how the Swiss model reflected specifically European concerns.” · Andrew Denning, Western Washington University

“Patrick Kupper’s book is an important contribution to the history of national parks… [by putting] the creation of a Swiss national park into an explicitly transnational context.  He understands the Swiss national park not as a mere copy of an American model but in a more nuanced way that blends different international examples with the Swiss historical context… Kupper’s work is squarely in the tradition of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities… Indeed, he nicely debunks the idea that the US invented the national park idea.  One might say that Kupper does for national parks what Anderson did for nationalism itself.” · Andrew Isenberg, Temple University


The history of the Swiss National Park, from its creation in the years before the Great War to the present, is told for the first time in this book. Unlike Yellowstone Park, which embodied close cooperation between state-supported conservation and public recreation, the Swiss park put in place an extraordinarily strong conservation program derived from a close alliance between the state and scientific research. This deliberate reinterpretation of the American idea of the national park was innovative and radical, but its consequences were not limited to Switzerland. The Swiss park became the prime example of a “scientific national park,” thereby influencing the course of national parks worldwide.

Patrick Kupper is Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of Innsbruck. He is the co-editor of Civilizing Nature: National Parks in Global Historical Perspective (Berghahn, 2012).

Subject: History: 20th Century to Present Environmental Studies (General)
Area: Europe


List of Abbreviations


Chapter 1. Global Parks: National Parks, Globalization, and Western Modernism

  • The Myth of Yellowstone
  • Nature as National Symbol
  • The Value of “Unspoiled” Nature
  • The Global Conservation Movement
  • National Parks and Natural Monuments
  • The Globalization of the National Park

Chapter 2. National Natures: The Swiss National Park and the Conservationist “Internationale”

  • “A Beautiful Vision of the Future”
  • Laying the Foundations
  • The National Dimension
  • “Reserve” or “National Park”
  • National and Global Conservation
  • Dynamics and Contingencies

Chapter 3. Local Landscapes: Political Spaces, Institutional Arrangements, and Subjective Attitudes

  • Global, Local
  • Local Culture and Economy
  • Fears and Expectations
  • Area Selection and Initial Leases
  • Rounding Out and Expanding
  • Dealing with Conflicts
  • Institutionalization and Subjectivation

Chapter 4. Total Protection: Philosophy and Practice of “Freely Developing Nature”

  • “Total Protection” and Intervening in Natural Processes
  • Humans and Animals
  • The Role of Park Wardens
  • Managing Nature
  • Introducing Animals
  • Seeking a New Equilibrium

Chapter 5. Ecological “Field Laboratory”: The Park as a Scientific Experiment

  • A New Field within Ecology
  • Organizing and Financing Research
  • “A Scientific National Park”: International Reception
  • Changing Research Methods and Practices
  • Asynchronous Rhythms: Long-Term Observation and University Research
  • Growing Importance of the National Park as a Field Laboratory?

Chapter 6. Wilderness Limits: Natural Dynamics and Social Equilibrium

  • A Faustian Bargain with Water Power
  • Gambling with the National Park
  • Calling All Nature Lovers
  • And the Tourists Came
  • “Recreational Instruction”
  • Managing Wildlife
  • Of Hunters and Deer
  • Shooting in the National Park



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