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Environmental consequences of the longing for power: Revisiting Lower Silesia’s landscapes under Frederick the Great

The prevalence of the ‘Anthropocene’—the epoch of humankind’s detrimental force on environments—in academic discourse over the past decades has reinstigated an environmental approach to landscape history. This article is part of a project focusing on Lower Silesia’s environmental history and its relationship to urbanism, political economies and sociocultural shifts. The authors hypothesize that the repair of the Middle Oder Valley’s ecological systems can only proceed once the layered and unintended consequences of the region’s large-scale social and spatial engineering are laid bare. They do so by looking into the conquest of nature at the time of the Prussian Empire under the eighteenth-century reign of Frederick the Great. Through a specific focus on landscape perception and representation—with a series of interpretative cartographies and contemporary vedute (perspective-panoramic views)—the landscape itself comes to the fore in the unravelling of complexity and contradictions in the region’s environmental history and its exploitation.