Unruly Waters: How Rains, Rivers, Coasts, and Seas Have Shaped Asia's History

Basic. Dec. 2018. 416p. illus. maps. notes. index. ISBN 9780465097722. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780465097739. HIST
Rather than putting the political machinations of the ruling elite as the driving force of history, Amrith (history, Harvard Univ.; Crossing the Bay of Bengal) offers a view of history in which human efforts to control nature propels progress and establishes a government's legitimacy. Specifically, the control of water via dams, canals, and more that opened up new regions to cultivation resulting in dramatic population growth. The bulk of this work focuses on the history of India in the 19th and 20th centuries, while other Asian countries receive significantly less coverage. A real strength of the narrative is the explanation of how events in India had ripple effects throughout Asia and beyond. For example, in the 1870s, the lack of monsoon rains caused a devastating famine in India. Consequently, the colonial government initiated meteorological investigations to understand monsoons, which led to an increasing awareness of global weather patterns.
VERDICT An enjoyable read for those interested in modern Asian history, and an essential text for Indian history enthusiasts. See also Philip Ball's The Water Kingdom: A Secret History of China.

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