David Blackbourn

David Blackbourn is the Coolidge Professor of History at Harvard University. His books include German in the Long Nineteenth Century, Marpingen: Apparitions of the Virgin Mary, and most recently, The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany. He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.

"Startlingly original...Blackbourn shows how the visionary plans of kings, bureaucrats and engineers have devastating practical consequences for lesser mortals...Thanks to Blackbourn, this history of German landscape is no longer written in water." —Sunday Times (London)


The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany

Majestic and lyrically written, The Conquest of Nature traces the rise of Germany through the development of water and landscape. David Blackbourn begins his morality tale in the mid-1700s, with the epic story of Frederick the Great, who attempted—by importing the great scientific minds of the West and by harnessing the power of his army—to transform the uninhabitable marshlands of his scattered kingdom into a modern state. Chronicling the great engineering projects that reshaped the mighty Rhine, the emergence of an ambitious German navy, and the development of hydroelectric power to fuel Germany's convulsive industrial growth before World War I, Blackbourn goes on to show how Nazi racial policies rested on German ideas of mastery of the natural world. Filled with striking reproductions of paintings, maps, and photographs, this grand work of modern history links culture, politics, and the environment in an exploration of the perils faced by nations that attempt to conquer nature. 70 illustrations.

(W.W. Norton, August 2007)