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Since the beginning of time humans have had a vital relationship with water. Water considers humanity's interaction with this essential substance, its physical properties and their material effects, as well as exploring how diverse societies have engaged with these in different times and places. The earliest societies worshipped water deities, and even today water has important symbolic meanings as the embodiment of spiritual being and regenerative power. Water transformed agriculture through irrigation and drove the industrial revolution. Societies' relationships with water have also changed through history, with the development of new ideas about disease, health and hygiene management. Visions of water as an economic 'asset' have encouraged its enclosure and privatization, sparking major conflicts over ownership and control. Increasing pressure on freshwater resources has also created devastating environmental problems which now threaten the health of humans and other species.
The first book of its kind to give a comprehensive bio-cultural view of the differences and continuities in humankind's relationship with water over time, Water is a unique and fascinating account of water history. It provides a cultural view of water, as well as taking in material, ecological and political issues, and will appeal to all those interested in the environment and the state of the world today.
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Veronica Strang is Executive Director of the Institute of Advanced Study and Professor of Anthropology at Durham University. Her previous books include The Meaning of Water (2004) and Gardening the World: Agency, Identity and the Ownership of Water (2009).
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