Lecture given by Peter C. Perdue, professor of history at Yale University.
China, like all other empires and modern states, has relied on natural resources, like land, water, and minerals, to support its rule and ensure the livelihood of its people. In so doing, the Chinese reshaped the landscape, altering ecosystems, often undermining their resilience when pursuing economic growth.
Major crises of the Chinese state and society had their sources in unsustainable efforts to extract excessive burdens from the natural environment.
In this talk, I will discuss several major crises of the Chinese state from an ecological point of view, demonstrating the value of environmental history for understanding China’s current critical situation.