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Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa

  • One of the first environmental histories of the Middle East
  • Addresses the whole of the Middle East (from Morocco to Iran) from 1500 to the present
  • Incorporates interdisciplinary methodology—history, anthropology, environmental politics, geography
  • Based on primary research in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish

By: Alan Mikhail(Editor)

Oxford University Press

Paperback | Jan 2013 | #200712 | ISBN-13: 9780199768660
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £15.99 $20/€18 approx
Hardback | Jan 2013 | #200714 | ISBN-13: 9780199768677
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £59.99 $76/€67 approx

About this book

From Morocco to Iran and the Black Sea to the Red, Water on Sand rewrites the history of the Middle East and North Africa from the Little Ice Age to the Cold War. As the first holistic environmental history of the region over the last half millennium, it shows the intimate connections between peoples and environments and how these relationships shaped political, economic, and social history in startling and unforeseen ways. Nearly all political powers in the region based their rule on the management and control of natural resources, and nearly all individuals were in constant communion with the natural world. To grasp how these multiple histories were central to the pasts of the Middle East and North Africa, the chapters in Water on Sand evidence the power of environmental history to open up new avenues of historical research and understanding.

Water on Sand furthermore traces how the Middle East and North Africa deeply affected the global histories of climate, disease, trade, energy, environmental politics, ecological manipulation, and much more. Lying at the intersection of three continents and as many seas, the Middle East has obviously been central to world history for millennia. Studying the ecological implications of these global connections, both for the region itself and for the rest of the world, helps to bring the Middle East and North Africa into global history and to show how the region must be an essential part of any understanding of the environments of Eurasia over the last five hundred years.

Deeply researched, globally comparative, and highly provocative, Water on Sand represents both a new kind of Middle Eastern history and a new kind of environmental history.



Introduction - Middle East Environmental History: The Fallow between Two Fields- Alan Mikhail
1. The Eccentricity of the Middle East and North Africa's Environmental History- J.R. McNeill
2. History and Animal Energy in the Arid Zone- Richard W. Bulliet
3. The Little Ice Age Crisis of the Ottoman Empire: A Conjuncture in Middle East Environmental History- Sam White
4. Fish and Fishermen in Ottoman Istanbul- Suraiya Faroqhi
5. Plague and Environment in Late Ottoman Egypt- Alan Mikhail
6. Through an Ocean of Sand: Pastoralism and the Equestrian Culture of the Eurasian Steppe- Arash Khazeni
7. Enclosing Nature in North Africa: National Parks and the Politics of Environmental History- Diana K. Davis
8. Building the Past: Rockscapes and the Aswan High Dam in Egypt- Nancy Reynolds
9. The Rise and Decline of Environmentalism in Lebanon- Karim Makdisi
10. State of Nature: The Politics of Water in the Making of Saudi Arabia- Toby C. Jones
11. Expanding the Nile's Watershed: The Science and Politics of Land Reclamation in Egypt- Jessica Barnes


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Alan Mikhail is Assistant Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt: An Environmental History, which won the Roger Owen Book Award from the Middle East Studies Association and the Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Publication from Yale University.

- Jessica Barnes- Postdoctoral Associate, Yale Climate and Energy Institute and Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
- Richard W. Bulliet- Professor of Middle Eastern History, Columbia University
- Diana K. Davis- Associate Professor of History, University of California, Davis.
- Suraiya Faroqhi- Professor of History, Istanbul Bilgi University
- Toby C. Jones- Associate Professor of History, Rutgers University, New Brunswick
- Arash Khazeni- Assistant Professor of History, Pomona College
- Karim Makdisi- Department of Political Studies and Public Administration, American University of Beirut (AUB)
- J.R. McNeill- University Professor, Georgetown University
- Alan Mikhail- Assistant Professor of History, Yale University
- Nancy Y. Reynolds- Assistant Professor of History, Washington University in St. Louis
- Sam White- Assistant Professor of History, Oberlin College

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