The empire meets the new deal: Interwar encounters in conservation and regional planning

Joe M. Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


British imperial and American experiences in conservation and planning are providing fresh interdisciplinary challenges for university teaching and research. The Roosevelt administration's 'New Deal' included government-sponsored interventions in soil erosion and water management and sophisticated regional development agendas. Reviewing samples of the latter areas of concern, this article explores the proposition that, although the British Empire was scarcely bereft of comparable interwar programmes and was becoming somewhat preoccupied with centrifugal tendencies, persistent porosity, exhausting struggles with postwar reconstruction, and comprehensive economic depression, New Deal evangelism was in fact variously anticipated, harnessed, challenged and ignored. A discussion of widely separated national and regional examples locates a layered interplay between uneven imperial and US pulsations, independent local manoeuvres, and critical inputs from key individual agents. The most important filters included the presence of comparatively robust bureaucratic infrastructures and the cultivation of international relationships by scientists and technologists. Encounters with convergent revisionism suggest cautionary leads for students, researchers and teachers alike. Reconstructions of selected contexts underline the presence of familiar posturing, opportunism, and astute patriotic deployment during the emergence of modern styles of globalization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-360
Number of pages24
JournalGeographical Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2005


  • Australia
  • British Empire
  • Conservation
  • New Deal
  • New Zealand
  • Palestine
  • Regional planning
  • Soils
  • South Africa
  • Water

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