In times of ideological and historiographic revisionism, it should come as no surprise if, rather than modes of production, debate focuses on modes of "refusation", i.e. the production of waste materials. Whereas topics concerning production and consumption and early industrialisation have traditionally been placed at the centre of historical-economic analysis, the latter, along with political economy, has never paid much attention to rejects, residuals, and waste. Friction among society, the production system and the environment is usually examined in terms of its effects on health, or else in terms of the transformation of natural or artificial "habitats". This volumes shows that rubbish and refuse allow historical reconstruction to explore the darkest corners of modes of productions, social organisation and collective sensitivities - to the roots of an environmental issue which contemporary society has allowed to get out of hand. But the issue has not always been absent in the past: even though the size of some problems may have been quantitatively small in pre-industrial economies, from a qualitative vantage point it is surprising to note how many and which environmental problems had already emerged in the past. Once again, historical research, when it is as precise and detailed as Ercole Sori's, is shown to be indispensable for understanding today's society.
Ercole Sori teaches Economic History in the
Faculty of Economics at the University of Ancona.