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The Nature of Disaster in China
The 1931 Yangzi River Flood


Part of Studies in Environment and History

  • Date Published: February 2018
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108417778

£ 75.00

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About the Authors
  • In 1931, China suffered a catastrophic flood that claimed millions of lives. This was neither a natural nor human-made disaster. Rather, it was created by an interaction between the environment and society. Regular inundation had long been an integral feature of the ecology and culture of the middle Yangzi, yet by the modern era floods had become humanitarian catastrophes. Courtney describes how the ecological and economic effects of the 1931 flood pulse caused widespread famine and epidemics. He takes readers into the inundated streets of Wuhan, describing the terrifying and disorientating sensory environment. He explains why locals believed that an angry Dragon King was causing the flood, and explores how Japanese invasion and war with the Communists inhibited both official relief efforts and refugee coping strategies. This innovative study offers the first in-depth analysis of the 1931 flood, and charts the evolution of one of China's most persistent environmental problems.

    • The first in-depth analysis of one of the most lethal floods in human history
    • Integrates multiple different historiographical approaches, including environmental, cultural, social and disaster history
    • Examines the long-term development of one of China's most pressing contemporary environmental problems
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Among the welcome deluge of works on the environmental history of rivers in China, Courtney's work is distinctive in being able to bring the multiple dimensions, such as the hydrological, agricultural, local, political and not least, the cosmological and religious - within the optic he calls 'disaster regimes'. It is an innovative idea that can help guide the increasingly important field of disaster studies.' Prasenjit Duara, Oscar Tang Professor, Duke University, North Carolina

    'This is a marvelous book. Courtney examines the massive but often-overlooked Yangzi River Flood of 1931 from environmental, ecological, institutional, cultural, social, and sensory perspectives, and delves into topics as varied as snail fever and the Dragon King cult. The Nature of Disaster greatly enriches our understanding of flooding in Nationalist China, and makes an important and timely contribution to the broader field of Chinese disaster studies.' Kathryn Edgerton-Tarpley, San Diego State University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108417778
    • length: 310 pages
    • dimensions: 237 x 157 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.64kg
    • contains: 19 b/w illus. 3 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. The Long River长江
    2. The flood pulse
    3. The Dragon King龙王
    4. A sense of disaster
    5. Disaster experts
    6. The floating population

  • Author

    Chris Courtney, University of Cambridge
    Chris Courtney is an environmental and social historian of modern China. He has lived for over five years in the city of Wuhan, and is passionate about the history and culture of the region. Having completed his Ph.D. at the University of Manchester, he was awarded research fellowships at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, and at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore.

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