Hydraulic Societies: Water, Power, and Control in East and Central Asian History (Paperback)

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Hydraulic Societies: Water, Power, and Control in East and Central Asian History By Nicholas B. Breyfogle (Editor), Philip C. Brown (Editor) Cover Image
By Nicholas B. Breyfogle (Editor), Philip C. Brown (Editor)
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Hydraulic Societies explores the linked themes of water, power, state-building, and hydraulic control. Bringing together a range of ecological, geographical, chronological, and methodological perspectives, the essays in this book address how humans have long harnessed water and sought to contain its destructive power for political, economic, and social ends. Water defines every aspect of life and remains at the center of human activity: in irrigation and agriculture; waste and sanitation; drinking and disease; floods and droughts; religious beliefs and practices; fishing and aquaculture; travel and discovery; scientific study; water pollution and conservation; multi-purpose dam building; boundaries and borders; politics and economic life; and wars and diplomacy.

From the earliest large irrigation works thousands of years ago, control over water has involved control over people, as the essays in this volume reflect. The intersections of water and political, economic, and social power historically span international as well as domestic politics and operate at scales ranging from the local to the global. The authors consider the role of water in national development schemes, water distribution as a tool of political power, international disputes over waterways and water supplies, and the place of water in armed conflicts. They explore the ways in which political power and social hierarchies have themselves been defined and redefined by water and its control, how state leaders legitimized their rule both culturally and economically through the control of water, and how water management schemes were a means to impose and refine colonial power.

About the Author

Nicholas B. Breyfogle is associate professor of history at The Ohio State University.

Philip C. Brown is emeritus professor of history at The Ohio State University.


Yasuaki Chino is Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, College of Engineering, Nihon University, Japan.  

David Fedman is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine.  

Yawen Ku currently works as an Associate Research Fellow at the Taiwan History Institute, Academia Sinica, Taiwan. 

Scott C. Levi is a specialist of the social and economic history of early modern Central Asia. He currently chairs the Department of History at the Ohio State University.  

Ruth Mostern is Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Department of History and the World History Center.  

Shinichiro Nakamura is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering, Nagoya University.  

Beatrice Penati is a permanent lecturer in Russian and Eurasian History at the University of Liverpool (UK).   Robert Winstanley-Chesters is a geographer and AKS Teaching and Research Fellow in Korean Studies at the University of Edinburgh. He is also Lecturer at University of Leeds, York St John University, Bath Spa University and Member of Wolfson College, Oxford.  

Ling Zhang is an Associate Professor of History at Boston College and Distinguished Visiting Professor at Shanxi University.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780870712371
ISBN-10: 0870712373
Publisher: Oregon State University Press
Publication Date: June 15th, 2023
Pages: 320
Language: English