Notions of Nature, Notions of Humanity
Shifting Historical Perceptions of Canadian Parks
The history of Canadian parks systems, within the realm of environmental history, has been deeply affected by contemporary social, environmental, and political beliefs. The rhetoric of human domination over nature and the inherent separation of the two was entrenched throughout historical works on Canadian parks in the early to mid- twentieth century. The liberalization of history within the past forty years has served to shift this trend. The inclusion of scientific knowledge in historical research, the limitation of past prejudices and biases concerning nature and humanity, and the questioning of political policies affecting nature have aided in the growth of a body of historical research and interpretation that questions past perceptions of the natural. The historiographical exploration of parks history offers researchers an exciting opportunity to identify historical factors impacting the practice of environmental history while also discerning and encouraging future trends in environmental history. Using recent historical publications on Canadian parks history as examples, this paper seeks to both uncover the historical factors impacting past historical practice and acknowledge the major philosophical and practical shifts in historical practice that have fostered an exciting new body of work in environmental history. In questioning what it means to be human, what it means to be Canadian, and what the relationship between humanity and nature is and can be, increasingly nuanced historical work offers readers and historians new realms of exploration – both philosophically and practically.
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