Coping with Calamity

Environmental Change and Peasant Response in Central China, 1736-1949

Jiayan Zhang

292 pp., Illustrated
NIAS Monographs # 128
Available from NIAS Press in Europe




Paperback - 2015, Available
ISBN 978 87 7694 151 2, £19.99


• Important contribution to the field of environmental history.
• Unique insights from the author’s intimate knowledge of the region and extensive sources.


The Jianghan Plain in central China has been shaped by its relationship with water. Once a prolific rice-growing region that drew immigrants to its fertile paddy fields, it has, since the eighteenth century, become prone to devastating flooding and waterlogging. Over time, population pressures and dike building left more and more people in the region vulnerable to frequent water calamities. The first environmental and socioeconomic history of the region, Coping with Calamity considers the Jianghan Plain’s volatile environment, the constant challenges it presented to peasants, and their often ingenious and sophisticated responses during the Qing and Republican periods. “It is unique in interpreting rural economic and social institutions in modern China using an environmental approach. Zhang’s book is essential reading for students of rural China and modern Chinese history.” – Huaiyin Li, author of Village China under Socialism and Reform

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