A multidisciplinary environmental history of early China’s political systems, featuring newly available Chinese archaeological data
“Over four thousand years of unsustainable growth, Chinese states replaced a diverse ecosystem with a monocropping grain state. All states destroy environments, but only the state can save us. So ancient China's spectres still haunt our modern crisis. A brilliant and disturbing analysis!”—Peter C. Perdue, author of Environmental History in China and the West: Its Origins and Prospects
This book is a multidisciplinary study of the ecology of China’s early political systems up to the fall of the first empire in 207 BCE. Brian Lander traces the formation of lowland North China’s agricultural systems and the transformation of its plains from diverse forestland and steppes to farmland. He argues that the growth of states in ancient China, and elsewhere, was based on their ability to exploit the labor and resources of those who harnessed photosynthetic energy from domesticated plants and animals. Focusing on the state of Qin, Lander amalgamates abundant new scientific, archaeological, and excavated documentary sources to argue that the human domination of the central Yellow River region, and the rest of the planet, was made possible by the development of complex political structures that managed and expanded agroecosystems.
Brian Lander is assistant professor of history at Brown University and a fellow of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society.
Winner of the James Henry Breasted Prize, sponsored by the AHA
“Over four thousand years of unsustainable growth, Chinese states replaced a diverse ecosystem with a monocropping grain state. All states destroy environments, but only the state can save us. So ancient China’s spectres still haunt our modern crisis. A brilliant and disturbing analysis!”—Peter C. Perdue, author of Environmental History in China and the West: Its Origins and Prospects (in Chinese)
“The King’s Harvest is an extraordinary achievement that makes a unique contribution to Chinese history, environmental history, and the history of agriculture.”—Ruth Mostern, author of The Yellow River: A Natural and Unnatural History
“The King’s Harvest is based on exceptionally sound scholarship, reflecting Brian Lander’s grasp of the most cutting-edge approaches to environmental history and early Chinese history.”—Micah S. Muscolino, author of The Ecology of War in China
“Brian Lander has written a richly detailed, engaging, and eminently readable masterpiece of environmental history, interweaving archaeological and textual evidence from Ancient China to demonstrate that ‘Geopolitics are always environmental politics.’”—Rowan Flad, coauthor of Ancient Central China
“Brian Lander’s book boldly builds upon K. C. Chang’s Archaeology of Ancient China and Mark Elvin’s Retreat of the Elephants, providing one plausible explanation for agricultural innovations spurring vast sociopolitical changes. I will assign it.”—Michael Nylan, author of Chang’an 26 BCE: An Augustan Age in China
Sign up to the Yale newsletter for book news, offers, free extracts and more
Strictly Necessary Cookies
Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.
If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.