The emergence of an extensive transnational discourse of ´security´ was intrinsic to the self-understanding of the emerging British Empire as such, which was mostly concerned with military and naval defensive power. Though the awareness and consciousness of the environment´s vulnerability in the sense of a pre-romantic conservation of nature as such, has been identified by environmental history also as a part of early British imperial communication, it was seldom associated with ´security´. Early elements of ´environmental security´ can only be found where the infrastructure of that expanding empire was concerned within four fields: (1) natural disasters—foremost dearth, droughts and their impact on the shortage of the grain supply; (2) shortages of wood, to which the shipbuilding industry and thereby the security infrastructure itself were highly sensitive; (3) concepts of climate and acclimatization applied to agricultural theories as far as one may discern a link to ´security´; (4) humans as part of nature as they were addressed mostly within populationist discourse. We might, therefore, detect here the imperial roots of environmental security—not in the sense of a necessary teleological unfolding, but in the meaning of a perhaps unexpected, side-stepping form of relationship between the periods.
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"The better securing our Plantation Trade" (Cary 1695, f. A4v); "[…] the Trade of this Kingdom might be secured with no greater Expence to the Government than now ´tis at […]" (ibid., p. 27); "Trades securer […]" (ibid., p. 28f., 65); "Security […] of that Island [Ireland]" (ibid., pp. 93, 96, 98). Cf. Reinert 2011.
"And the best security, in those parts, against any future designs or attempts from our neighbours, will probably be to have, both in the East and West-Indies, a naval strength which shall at best be equal to theirs" (Davenant 1771a/1698, p. 456).
"Or Secondly, they say, that if this Trade be taken into the protection of the Government, it will have the Joint stock of the Kingdom to secure it, the same by which we are all secured" (Petyt 1689, p. 145).
All bibliographies show 1750 to be a consistently decisive moment for the take-off of the French economic discourse: cf. INED 1956; Théré 1998, p. 11; Reinert 2011, pp. 52–60. The tradition of economic advisory mémoire writing was already important under Richelieu (Hauser 1944; Thomson 2007). With the creation, or rather stabilization, of the French council of commerce in 1701, distinct series of such mémoires started to grow, of which the series F-12 in the Archives nationales (site Pierrefitte) is most important (cf. Schaeper 1983; Kammerling Smith 2002). However, usually those mémoires were concerned with particular regions, types of commerce and particular issues of reform, they seldom address French commerce in a similarly general way as the British mercantilists had before 1750. The same holds true—despite important exceptions with the Abbé St. Pierre, Melon, John Law—for the fonds of mémoires of the Chambre de commerce in Marseille (H5–H9), Zwierlein 2016, pp. 60–72, 230–237.
Sixteenth century note to the commentary of Baldus to Dig. I, 8, 2, 1 (De divisione rerum & qualitate): „Adde, quod Veneti sunt domini maris Adriatici, & littorum etiam, scilicet in genere, non in specie, quia littora sunt ciuitatum adiacentium littora“ (Baldus 1599, f. 43r). On the Venetian tradition cf. Acquaviva and Scovazzi 2007 and Calafat 2013, part I, chap. 2.
Cf. the introduction with the note 2.
For the spatial notion of security in matters cf. Zwierlein 2015, pp. 119–125. Though it has to be noted that the late-medieval concept of the English king as protector and ´lord of the Sea´ was also widened and merged with that newer strand of development. Welwood, Davies, Selden were themselves key actors in that process as they reconstructed a consistent discourse on the basis of diligent research into old Common law sources, merging this with the Venetian Civil law tradition.
"[…] for as Nation shou´d Trade with Nation, so all the Subjects of any particular Nation, by their Birthrights, have equally a Title to Trade where they can with the best Advantage: This is undoubtedly the Grand Magna Charta that God has granted to the Children of Men, the Charter of the whole World, where the People are all Incorporated." (Baston 1716, p. 2).
Mueller-Wille (1999); Barsanti et al. (2005); a good contemporary overview over the development of the systems of classification and their differences from Antiquity to his own time cf. Adanson (1763), préface, pp. 5–278. On the economic thought that was orienting his research, a Swedish form of German cameralism, Koerner 1999; her re-setting of Linnaeus´ seemingly purely classificatory work within the functional context of cameralist improvement of Swedish state economy has been continued and widened by Jonsson 2010.
On Linnaeus´s acceptance of the emergence of new genera through hybridisation in 1764 cf. Mueller-Wille (1999), pp. 280–284.
Economic historians have been working for decades on an assessment of the damage, cf. Pereira (2009), but mercantilist and enlightened economic theory did not devote much attention to something like a macro-economic theory of calculating or estimating the impact of floods and earthquakes beyond what administrative damage assessment had reached, for instance in the field of territorial fire insurance. Cf. on the history of earthquakes in France in all its dimensions Quenet (2005); bibliography on the Lisbon earthquake is vast, just cf. Poirier (2005); Lauer and Unger (2014).
For reflections on the grain trade and granaries within mercantilist discourse cf. Yarranton (1677), pp. 133, 163; Davenant (1771b/1699), pp. 163–382, 225 ("good and prudent oeconomy"); Petyt (1689), p. 31. The biblical reference was always to Joseph´s administrative work in Egypt and his care for the grain supply. This had already been used much earlier in European state practices like in the Calvinist Palatinate under Johann Casimir (cf. edict of August 19, 1588, Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe Abt. 43/297: Notspeicherverordnung referring to 1 Macc:14. Under John Casimir, a system of six granaries built in the central towns of the territory’s administrative districts was established. In addition to an initial stock of 1250 Malter (the measure) of grain and 1650 florins as cash deposit, the temporary usufruct of reverting fiefs and prebends was used to increase it, an administration established that was responsible for surveying the state of access to grain in the country, to use any potential surplus for trading, and to manage the equalizing of the grain price in the country by way of supporting villages short of grain and by collecting contributions to the stock in good harvest years). Cf. Collet (2010) on the German cameralist discussion on granaries ca. 200 years later. At that time, Europeans had started to compare their own provisions for grain supply on a global scale: cf. the detailed analysis of the granary system of the Chinese Empire by an anonymous French missionary based in Peking 1768: Mémoire sur la conservation et la police des grains à la Chine, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Ms. Nouvelles acquisitions françaises 22335, f. 342–372v.
It is a now well-established result of Indian historiography since the 1980s that the Nineteenth Century British Imperial Government imported German and French forestry expertise from and during a later period for the reordering and reshaping of Indian forestry (Rajan 2006; Barton 2002; Sivaramakrishnan 1999; Sivaramakrishnan 2008; Williams 2006, pp. 326–340; Knudsen 2011). But the relationship between forestry, food supply and the shipping industry was already discussed in the mercantilist discourse of the early British Empire. On the interlinkage of British and Colonial American shipbuilding industries cf. McCusker and Menard 1991, pp. 318–321 with literature in n. 15 and 17; and the still classic Davis 2012, pp. 18–20 and passim: timber imports grew immensely in the second half of the seventeenth century, first from the Baltic, then from the Americas. At that time, it became the largest of all foreign trades (ibid., 91). Later, at the turn from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century, India became important for wood production—first for shipbuilding, and later for the railway industry on the subcontinent itself. Davis also drew on the British mercantilists like Brewster who articulated the centrality of wood supply for these purposes.
The text started with a reminder of Malthus and an introduction into the difference between linear and exponential growth in a manner close to a teacher´s lesson in elementary schools, cf. note 53.
"In the Antient Descriptions, the Countries are full of Vast Woods, wild Beasts; the Inhabitants barbarous, and as wild, without Arts, and the Governments are like Colonies, or Herds of People: But in the Modern, the Woods are cut down, and the Lyons, Bears, and wild Beasts destroyed […]" (Barbon 1690, 44f.).
"To Transplant the Conquered into a Remote Country, as formerly, is not to be Practised; There is now no Room, the World is full of People" (Barbon 1690, p. 56).
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Zwierlein, C. Security, Nature and Mercantilism in the Early British Empire. Eur J Secur Res 3, 15–34 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41125-017-0025-5
- British empire
- Early modern history
- Environmental security
- Natural disaster
- Charles Davenant
- Nicholas Barbon
- Navigation act
- Economic growth