Tigers, Rice, Silk, and Silt: Environment and Economy in Late Imperial South China

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Challenging the conventional wisdom of Western environmental historians, this book examines the correlations between economic and environmental changes in the southern imperial Chinese provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi (a region historically known as Lingnan, "South of the Mountains") from 1400 to 1850. Marks discusses the impact of population growth on land use patterns, the agro-ecology, and deforestation; the commercialization of agriculture and its implications; the impact of climatic change on agriculture; and the ways in which the human population responded to environmental challenges.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...this is a landmark book that deserves, and will undoubtedly receive, a wide readership." Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Few historical studies feature animals in their titles. We gain insight, however, from turning human-centered history around because animals, earth, water, and climate all strongly affect human daily life. One of the special merits of Robert Marks's meticulous study of long-term environmental change in South China is that he incorporates the human story into a balanced, synthetic description of natural, biological, and political developments. While recognizing the great achievements of the Chinese settlers who transformed their environment, he never loses sight of the costs." Peter C. Purdue, Journal of Asian Studies

"...the book's most thought-provoking achievement is to make us ponder late imperial Chinese history in terms of long-term processes of change through which human interaction with the environment has created an ambivalent mix of economic goods and ecological "bads"." JAAS

"...it deserves high praise for being one of the most comprehensive studies of the economic history of South CHina in the late imperial period...Marks has provided the most balanced overview of the different aspects of agricultural and commercialization in the Pearl River Δ during the Ming and Qing...The book is packed with useful statistics, and the maps are beautifully presented...Marks has presented us with a solid examination of economic activity in the Lingnan region and its implications for the environment." China Review International

"insightful and well-documented...Tigers, Rice, Silk, and Silt weaves together a vast variety of data on environmental trends, including long-term climate shifts, deforestation, land reclamation, and the disappearance of elephants and togers. It is presented with the help of many useful maps, charts and tables. Marks is particularly successful in showing the reclamation and settlement of the Pearl River Δ near Canton after the fourteeth century, and the expansion of a regional rice market as the Δ area turned to the production of cash crops and manufactured goods for export to other parts of China and Southeast Asia." Jrnl of World History Fall 2000

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521027762
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2006
  • Series: Studies in Environment and History Series
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Table of Contents

List of maps, figures, and tables; Dynasties, Qing dynasty Emperors' reign dates, and weights and measures; Acknowledgments; Introduction; 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; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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