This wide-ranging book investigates the emergence of modern ideas about the natural world in Britain from 1680-1860 through an examination of the cultural values common to the sciences, art, literature, and natural theology. During this critical period, spanned by Newtonian science, natural theology, Darwin's Origin of Species, and Ruskin's Modern Painters, the fundamental conception of nature and humanity's place within it changed.
P. M. Harman calls for a new understanding of the varied ways in which the British comprehended natural beauty, from the perception of nature as a "design" flowing from God's creative power to the Darwinian naturalistic aesthetic. Harman connects a variety of differing views of nature deriving from religion, science, visual art, philosophy, and literature to developments in agriculture, manufacturing, and the daily lives of individuals. This ambitious and accessible book represents intellectual history at its best.