12 Nov 2021 16:00

The Yellow River: A Natural and Unnatural History

Online conference

Speaker: Ruth Mostern, Pittsburgh University

This talk showcases Ruth Mostern’s new book: The Yellow River: A Natural and Unnatural History (Yale University Press, 2021). The Yellow River explains how environmentally transformative human activity has shaped the whole watershed and constituted the relationship between people and the river since Neolithic times. The book demonstrates that the history of the relationship between people and the river is a history of soil as much as it is a history of water, and that some of the most important episodes in Yellow River history transpired on the semi-arid lands of the Loess Plateau, far from the riverbed itself. Using GIS and data analysis as well as close readings of historical sources, the book reveals that although the Yellow River floodplain was sometimes a site of frequent and devastating disasters, this was only the case at times of certain decisions about public policy and infrastructure design.

The event will be held on Zoom. Participants can register here: Zoom Link

For information please contact Maddalena Barenghi at

Ruth Mostern is Associate Professor of History and Director of the World History Center at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the author of two books: Dividing the Realm in Order to Govern: The Spatial Organization of the Song State (960-1276) (Harvard Asia Center, 2011), and The Yellow River: A Natural and Unnatural History (Yale University Press, 2021). She is the coeditor of Placing Names: Enriching and Integrating Gazetteers (Indiana University Press, 2016) and the project director of the World Historical Gazetteer initiative. Her research has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and other sources.

The talk is the first event in the series of lectures:
Environments, Societies, and Histories of East Asia
This series of lectures presents topics on the environments of East Asia from a historical perspective with a focus on human and natural resources (water, forestry, agriculture, transportation, human displacements…). The series stems from the urge to go beyond the limits of imperial/national history and to observe how different East Asian societies and regional entities dealt with human and natural resources from the premodern period to the present day. From a social standpoint, we aim at enabling the potential of Asian environmental histories to inform the quest for just and sustainable futures.


L'evento si terrà in inglese


Department of Asian and North African Studies (Maddalena Barenghi), International Center for Humanities and Social Change


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