Books  General Natural History  Environmental History 

The Ecology of War in China: Henan Province, the Yellow River, and Beyond, 1938-1950

Analyses the complex relationship between refugee migration and environmental change
Explores the most ecologically devastating act of war in world history
Offers an ambitious, theoretically informed conceptualization of the interplay between war and environment

By: Micah S Muscolino (Author)

312 pages, 19 b/w illustrations, 9 maps, 2 tables

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | May 2016 | #216747 | ISBN-13: 9781107417595
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £34.99 $43/€39 approx
Hardback | Mar 2015 | #215255 | ISBN-13: 9781107071568
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £56.99 $70/€64 approx

About this book

The Ecology of War in China explores the interplay between war and the environment in Henan Province, a hotly contested frontline territory that endured massive environmental destruction and human disruption during the conflict between China and Japan that raged during World War II. In a desperate attempt to block Japan's military advance, Chinese Nationalist armies under Chiang Kai-shek broke the Yellow River's dikes in Henan in June 1938, resulting in devastating floods that persisted until after the war's end. Greater catastrophe struck Henan in 1942-1943, when famine took some two million lives and displaced millions more. Focusing on these war-induced disasters and their aftermath, The Ecology of War in China conceptualizes the ecology of war in terms of energy flows through and between militaries, societies, and environments. Ultimately, Micah Muscolino argues that efforts to procure and exploit nature's energy in various forms shaped the choices of generals, the fates of communities, and the trajectory of environmental change in North China.

"This is a riveting study of one of modern history's worst war-induced disasters. In 1938 the Yellow River was turned into a weapon of strategic defense, its waters let loose on the North China plain by Chinese forces resisting the Japanese invasion. This consummate work shows the evolution of the disaster and lays out its ghastly human and ecological effects. It is a pioneering combination of environmental history and Chinese history."
- Diana Lary, University of British Columbia

"In this brilliantly conceptualized work Muscolino draws on the memories of the displaced as well as the records of the river to tell an environmental history of the Yellow River, granting the latter its full agency in the shaping of modern Chinese history."
- Wen-hsin Yeh, Richard H. and Laurie C. Morrison Chair Professor in History, University of California, Berkeley

"Conceptualizing the relationship between armies and environment in terms of energy flows, Micah Muscolino provides us with a startlingly new and rich way to think about the relationship between war and environment."
- Hans van de Ven, Director in Oriental Studies, St Catharine's College, University of Cambridge



1. A militarized river: the 1938 Yellow River flood and its aftermath
2. Stories of survival: refugee migration and ecological adaptation
3. Military metabolism and the Henan famine of 1942-1943
4. Against the flow: hydraulic instability and ecological exhaustion
5. The ecology of displacement: social and environmental effects of refugee migration
6. The land needs the people; the people need the land: beginnings of postconflict recovery
7. Reconstruction and revolution


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Micah Muscolino is Associate Professor of History at Georgetown University.

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