Seeing the nation for the trees: At the frontier of italian nineteenth-century modernity

Roberta Biasillo*, Marco Armiero*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In this article we analyse the emergence and the transformation of three different socio-natural spaces in a particular historical context – that is, the establishment of a modern state. We explore this issue by researching the relationship between forests and modernisation from Unification in 1861 to the 1890s. Over this period Italy experienced a radical change connected with the state-building process, and forests represented a material place where innovations in social and economic development were tested. Based on three case studies, this article explores how modernity was articulated through urban parks, ironworks, and infrastructures. The three cases speak of both depletion and conservation; they exemplify the patterns through which, in the very making of modernity, Italian society articulated its relationship to nature in an attempt to overcome customary rights and the traditional rural organisation of society. Forests were constructed as socio-ecological spaces reflecting Italy’s contested and heterogeneous modernisation process through which political tensions, social conflicts and economic development theories were inscribed on transformed landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-508
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironment and History
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Forest
  • Infrastructures
  • Ironworks
  • Nation-building processes
  • Public domain
  • Urban park


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