This article traces the mounting worries about peat (moor) smoke in northwest Germany and how they fueled a state-led effort to find a reliable alternative to moor burning. Public complaints about moor smoke's threats began in the eighteenth century and peaked after the German Empire's unification in 1871. By that time, most agronomists contended that the larger threat was the “backward” practice of moor burning itself, which they blamed for the region's environmental devastation and dire poverty. The substitution of German raised bog cultivation, or Hochmoorkultur, for moor burning was nonetheless slow. This did not, however, reflect a failure of state authority. Rather, state officials' close collaboration with local agricultural experts and social reformers bolstered the recognition that there would be no instant remedies and that a ban would be counterproductive. Instead, regulations were introduced to make the practice safer and less “arbitrary” until it was outlawed in the 1930s.

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