WHC Director Ruth Mostern Publishes a Three-Thousand-Year History of the Yellow River

Congratulations to World History Center Director, Dr. Ruth Mostern, on her new book, The Yellow River: A Natural and Unnatural History, published by Yale University Press. Dr. Mostern’s new book is a three-thousand-year history of the Yellow River, China’s second largest river, and the legacy of interactions between humans and the natural landscape.

From Neolithic times to the present day, the Yellow River and its watershed have both shaped and been shaped by human society. Using the Yellow River to illustrate the long-term effects of environmentally significant human activity, Dr. Mostern unravels the long history of the human relationship with water and soil and the consequences, at times disastrous, of ecological transformations that resulted from human decisions.

As Dr. Mostern follows the Yellow River through three millennia of history, she underlines how governments consistently ignored the dynamic interrelationships of the river’s varied ecosystems—grasslands, riparian forests, wetlands, and deserts—and the ecological and cultural impacts of their policies. With an interdisciplinary approach informed by archival research and GIS (geographical information system) records, this groundbreaking volume provides unique insight into patterns, transformations, and devastating ruptures throughout ecological history and offers profound conclusions about the way we continue to affect the natural systems upon which we depend.

Please join Pitt’s History Department for a virtual book symposium on October 15 from Noon-2:00pm. The event will celebrate Dr. Mostern’s book and Andrew W. Mellon Chair in History Dr. Carla Nappi’s new book Translating Early Modern China: Illegible Cities (Oxford University Press, 2021) with commentary from Dr. Angela Zito, New York University. Contact Cynthia Graf (cmg134@pitt.edu) to register for the event.