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Challenging the conventional wisdom conveyed by Western environmental historians about China, Tigers, Rice, Silk, and Silt examines the correlations between economic and environmental changes in the southern Chinese provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi from 1400 to 1850, but also provides substantial background from 2CE on. Robert Marks discusses the impact of population growth on land-use patterns, the agro-ecology of the region, and deforestation; the commercialization of agriculture and its implications for ecological change; the impact of climatic change on agriculture; and the ways in which the human population responded to environmental challenges. Tigers, Rice, Silk, and Silt is a significant contribution to both Chinese and environmental history. It is groundbreaking in its methods and in its findings.
"This work is a breath of fresh air in terms of the approach that uses the interaction between environment and economy to examine historical change in Lingnan. Well researched, clearly written and strongly argued, it raises new questions and opens the possibility of further research into and comparisons with the history of environment and economy in other parts of imperial China."
- The Journal of Peasant Studies
List of maps, figures, and tables
Dynasties, Qing dynasty Emperors' reign dates, and weights and measures
1. 'Firs and pines a hundred spans round': the natural environment of Lingnan
2. 'All deeply forested and wild places are not malarious': human settlement and ecological change in Lingnan, 2–1400 CE
3. 'Agriculture is the foundation': economic recovery and development of Lingnan during the Ming Dynasty, 1368–1644
4. 'All the people have fled': war and the environment in the mid-seventeenth century crisis, 1644–83
5. 'Rich households compete to build ships': overseas trade and economic recovery
6. 'It never used to snow': climate change and agricultural productivity
7. 'There is only a certain amount of grain produced': granaries and the role of the state in the food supply system
8. 'Trade in rice is brisk:' market integration and the environment
9. 'Population increases daily, but the land does not': land clearance in the eighteenth century
10. 'People said that extinction was not possible': the ecological consequences of land clearance
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