Reshaping boundaries: international ethics and environmental consciousness in the early twentieth century

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As questions of global ethics, struggles over space, place, time and nature occupy much late twentieth-century intellectual debate, this paper analyses some comparable currents of thought at the previous fin de siecle. Particular interpretations of nature-society relations emerged within a political and social context marked by widespread concern over the need to rehabilitate British society, in order to confront adequately the challenges of the new century. In transcending the narrow confines of national and imperial citizenship, these visions of nature and the international offered a different model of cultural regeneration and transformation. The work of a group of scientists and public figures associated with the Scottish polymath and prominent anti-imperialist, Patrick Geddes, notably Andrew John Herbertson and Marion Isabel Newbigin, reveals that their support for values of harmony and cooperation central to civic responsibility found common ground across geographical and cultural boundaries and were important components of an international imagination. In promoting these values, their advocacy of both a critical and a practical geography is demonstrated.

Keywords: Edinburgh; Scotland; citizenship; ethics; geographical science; international consciousness; modernity; place

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 1998

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