The Yellow River A Natural and Unnatural History Ruth Mostern

Yale Agrarian Studies Series
Publication date:
23 Nov 2021
Yale University Press
376 pages: 229 x 178mm
43 color + 120 b-w illus.
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A three-thousand-year history of the Yellow River and the legacy of interactions between humans and the natural landscape

From Neolithic times to the present day, the Yellow River and its watershed have both shaped and been shaped by human society. Using the Yellow River as a case study in understanding the long-term effects of environmentally significant human activity, Ruth Mostern unravels the long history of the human relationship with water and soil and the consequences, at times disastrous, of ecological transformations that resulted from human decisions.
As she follows the Yellow River through three millennia of history, Mostern underlines how governments consistently ignored dynamic interrelationships among the river’s varied ecosystems—grasslands, riparian forests, wetlands, and deserts—and the ecological and cultural impact of their policies. With an interdisciplinary approach informed by archival research and GIS (geographical information system) records, this groundbreaking volume provides unique insight into patterns, transformations, and devastating ruptures throughout ecological history and offers profound conclusions about the way we continue to affect the natural systems upon which we depend.

Ruth Mostern is an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is also the director of the World History Center. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA.