Thesis ID: CBB001562396

Recreating the Rhone: Nature and Technology in France Since World War II (2001)


Pritchard, Sara B. (Author)

Stanford University
Hecht, Gabrielle
White, Richard

Publication Date: 2001
Edition Details: Advisors: Hecht, Gabrielle; White, Richard
Physical Details: 369 pp.
Language: English

Between 1945 and 1986, politicians and state engineers eager to reconstruct and modernize France after World War II conducted a radical technological and environmental transformation of the Rhône River. The industrialization of the Rhône by the Compagnie Nationale du Rhône (CNR) shows that the postwar period marked a new approach to managing not only the river, but also the natural environment in France. This approach relied upon large-scale, state-sponsored technological systems and suggests broader shifts in the relation ship between the state and nature. Before 1968, politicians, engineers, and writers linked the nation, national identity, and nature. They developed technological systems that redefined and transformed the environment as they redefined and transformed the nation and national identity in the wake of a debilitating war. The control of nature aimed to literally reconstruct the nation and to restore French greatness. Natural processes and increasingly local organizations soon challenged this coupling of nature and nation. After 1968, a broad coalition of activists used new conceptions of the river and new objectives for it to assert that "France" and "Frenchness" no longer depended upon the development of nature, but upon its preservation. Meanwhile, state officials and engineers began to link the meaning of the Rhône more frequently with European integration or regional economic development rather than with national reconstruction. By the 1970s, two competing, but legitimate discourses about the Rhône development and environment, had emerged. This shift helps to explain changes in the technical designs of the CNR's later projects and challenges to the completion of the agency's program to develop the entire course of the river. Placing nature and technology at the center of my analysis illuminates how the French defined the modern nation and national identity first through the transformation of nature and later, through either development or preservation. It also suggests how ideas about nature and technology underlay conceptions of national identity and the process of state-building. Finally, the dissertation integrates methods of environmental history, the history of technology, and modern French history.


Description Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. A 62 (2002): 3164. UMI order no. 3026888.

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Authors & Contributors
Pritchard, Sara B.
Gilliam, Rick
Gjøen, Heidi
Hård, Mikael
Kirk, Andrew Glenn
Bess, Michael D.
Environment and History
Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society
Science, Technology and Human Values
French Historical Studies
Technikgeschichte: Beiträge zur Geschichte der Technik und Industrie
Environmental History
Oxford University Press
University of Minnesota Press
University Press of Kansas
University of Chicago Press
Harvard University Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Conservation of natural resources
Environmental history
Environmental protection
Science and politics
Time Periods
20th century, late
21st century
20th century
Rhone River (Switzerland and France)
United States
Colorado (U.S.)
Australian Academy of Science
United Nations Environment Programme
International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)

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