chapter  4
24 Pages


Collins’s waves and the risk society of Beck and Giddens, while attractive for the bold and far-reaching vision they portray of expertise, both lack historical texture. For a sounder foundation in this regard, i prefer the insights on expertise in two splendid collections edited respectively by MacLeod and by rabier. On society’s attitudes to trust and risk, i also value the thoughts of several French historians providing interesting interpretations.7 Madeleine Ferrières is one, writing on food scares and the lack of public trust in city retailers before the

second empire.8 Jean-Baptiste Fressoz is another.9 He shows that Beck-type risks existed as far back as the nineteenth century in France. these were ‘new’ risks with incalculable consequences, mostly resulting from technological change in the industrial revolution, but including also environmental hazards such as the impact of deforestation on climate and the potential contamination of the groundwater around the capital by faecal matter. expertise was involved, not only through scientists advising Paris’s Conseil de salubrité or giving evidence in court. there were also popular commentators articulating caution about technical progress that was very similar to today’s ‘precautionary principle’.