464 pages, illustrations
This deeply informed and beautifully written book provides a comprehensive and comprehensible history of China from prehistory to the present. Focusing on the interaction of humans and their environment, Robert B. Marks traces changes in the physical and cultural world that is home to a quarter of humankind. Through both word and image, China: Its Environment and History illuminates the chaos and paradox inherent in China's environmental narrative, demonstrating how historically sustainable practices can, in fact, be profoundly ecologically unsound. The author also reevaluates China's traditional "heroic" storyline, highlighting the marginalization of nature that followed the spread of Chinese civilization while examining the development of a distinctly Chinese way of relating to and altering the environment. Unmatched in his ability to synthesize a complex subject clearly and cogently, Marks has written an accessible yet nuanced history for any reader interested in China, past or present. Indeed he argues successfully that all of humanity has a stake in China's environmental future.
Chapter 1: Introduction: Problems and Perspectives
Chapter 2: China's Natural Environment and Early Human Settlement to 1000 BCE
Chapter 3: States, Wars, and Farms: Environmental Change in Ancient and Early Imperial China, 1000 BCE-300 CE
Chapter 4: Deforesting the North and Colonizing the South in the Middle Imperial Period, 300-1300 CE
Chapter 5: Empire and Environment: China's Borderlands, Islands, and Inner Peripheries in Late Imperial China, 1300-1800 CE
Chapter 6: Environmental Degradation in Modern China, 1800-1949
Chapter 7: Controlling Nature in the People's Republic of China, 1949-Present
Chapter 8: Conclusion: China and Its Environment in World Historical Perspective
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Robert B. Marks is Richard and Billie Deihl Professor of History at Whittier College.