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The Invention of the Park: Recreational Landscapes from the Garden of Eden to Disney's Magic Kingdom

The Invention of the Park: Recreational Landscapes from the Garden of Eden to Disney's Magic Kingdom

Karen R. Jones, John Wills

ISBN: 978-0-745-63138-7 July 2005 Polity 248 Pages


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The word 'park' conjures a kaleidoscope of bucolic images. Childhood frolics in urban playgrounds. Strolls through the country estates of Stourhead and Versailles. Wilderness adventures in the Serengeti. White-knuckle thrill rides at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Coney Island. The Invention of the Park explores our fascination with making parks. In a broad-ranging environmental and social history, authors Karen Jones and John Wills search for a common set of ideas that inform park design. From Greek philosophers wandering sacred groves in the ancient world to today's kids watching Mickey Mouse in Disney's Magic Kingdom, the park has inspired and thrilled in equal measure. In a work spanning all five continents and several thousand years, Jones and Wills chart the evolution of the park idea. They ponder the intersection of the green pleasure ground with notions of democracy and freedom, welfare and consumption, conservation and nature. They forward the principle of a universal park idea malleable enough to survive war and revolution.

Contributing to a growing literature on global environmental history, the Invention of the Park explores how the park idea has come to transcend national boundaries and found appeal among a worldwide audience. Jones and Wills situate the park as a complex product of natural and cultural forces. Their work is of interest not just to students and scholars of environmental philosophy, history, and landscape design, but to amateur gardeners, rollercoaster 'adrenalin junkies' and all those who like to take a 'walk in the park.'

Introduction: Defining the Park.

1. From Ancient Groves to Versailles.

2. The English Landscape Park.

3. City Park: Bringing the Country to the Metropolis.

4. Nature and Recreation in the National Park.

5. Amusement Parks and Theme Parks.

6. Trapping Nature in the Animal Park.

7. Expanding the Park Experience.

Conclusion: The Park Ideal from Paradise to Utopia.


A Guide to Further Reading.



  • The authors take a range of ‘parks’, from local town playgrounds to international landmarks such as the Grand Canyon and Disneyland, and explore their origins and social significance.
  • The book is a global study, spanning all five continents, and also covering several thousand years - from Eden to Disney.
  • Environmental history is a growing field, which lacks good publications. This book is likely to be required reading on such courses. It will also be used on geography, american studies and leisure and tourism courses.
  • Very clearly written, with illustrations, suggestions for further reading and full background information throughout.