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Encounters Old and New in World HistoryEssays Inspired by Jerry H. Bentley$
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Alan Karras and Laura J. Mitchell

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824865917

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824865917.001.0001

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Explanations of Species Extinction in Nineteenth-Century China and Europe

Explanations of Species Extinction in Nineteenth-Century China and Europe

(p.121) Nine Explanations of Species Extinction in Nineteenth-Century China and Europe
Encounters Old and New in World History

Robert B. Marks

University of Hawai'i Press

This essay compares the articulation of the idea of species extinction in Europe and China. The idea of species extinction is usually assumed to have arisen first in late –eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Europe, contributing to Darwin’s formulation of his theory of natural selection as the basis for the evolution of species. This essay begins by citing Deng Qi’nan, a Chinese official writing in 1811, who also discussed species extinction—but who attributed the causes of species extinction to human action—and then explores the long-term historical context of changes to China’s environment that informed both the observation of species extinction in China and its attribution to human agency. The chapter concludes by considering whether a theory of species extinction that is grounded in science and “the natural archive” is more true than one grounded in research into the written records found in “the human archive.”

Keywords:   Jerry Bentley, extinction, anthropogenic extinction, China, Europe, deforestation, environmental history, science

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