Books  Environmental Studies  Environmental History 

Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of China


By: Mark Elvin

564 pages, Tabs, maps

Yale University Press

Paperback | Sep 2006 | #160657 | ISBN: 0300119933
Availability: In stock
Clearance price: £11.69 £17.99 (Save £6.30) $15/€13 approx
Hardback | Dec 2004 | #144975 | ISBN: 0300101112
Out of Print Details

About this book

Elvin chronicles the spread of the Chinese style of farming that eliminated the habitat of the elephants which once populated the country. He also describes the destruction of most of the forests, the impact of war on the landscape and the re-engineering of the countryside through water-control systems. He documents the histories of three contrasting localities within China to show how ecological dynamics defined the lives of the inhabitants.

"by far the best history of the interaction between the traditional Chinese and their surroundings [...] stupendously learned."
- Jonathan Mirsky, Literary Review

"majestic depth and brutal detail [...] a heavyweight work."
- Simon Barnes, The Times

"Masterly and engaging [...] Essential for those who want to understand the long sweep of Chinese history, and it will enhance the perspective of those who think they already understand it. A scholarly tour de force."
- J. R. McNeill, Wilson Quarterly

"Elvin combines an illuminating account of the 4000 year-long collision of humans and nature with delightful tidbits about everything under the Chinese sun [...] A magisterial work."
- Nicholas D. Kristof, Scientific American

Write a review

There are currently no reviews for this book. Be the first to review this book!


Mark Elvin is professor of Chinese history at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra.

Bestsellers in this subject

Europe: A Natural History

NHBS Special Offer Price: £16.99 £24.99 (Save £8.00) $22/€19 approx (ends 31/12/2018)

The Making of the British Landscape

NHBS Price: £9.99 $13/€11 approx

Pests in the City

NHBS Price: £18.99 $25/€22 approx

Nature and Power

NHBS Price: £22.99 $30/€26 approx

Vestal Fire

NHBS Price: £68.99 $90/€79 approx

VAT: GB 407 4846 44
NHBS Ltd is registered in England and Wales: 1875194