Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa

Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa

Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa

Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa

Synopsis

From Morocco to Iran and the Black Sea to the Red, Water on Sand rewrites the history of the Middle East and North Africa from the Little Ice Age to the Cold War era. As the first holistic environmental history of the region, it shows the intimate connections between peoples and environments and how these relationships shaped political, economic, and social history in startling and unforeseen ways. Nearly all political powers in the region based their rule on the management and control of natural resources, and nearly all individuals were in constant communion with the natural world. To grasp how these multiple histories were central to the pasts of the Middle East and North Africa, the chapters in this book evidence the power of environmental history to open up new avenues of scholarly inquiry.
From Morocco to Iran and the Black Sea to the Red, Water on Sand rewrites the history of the Middle East and North Africa from the Little Ice Age to the Cold War era. As the first holistic environmental history of the region, it shows the intimate connections between peoples and environments and how these relationships shaped political, economic, and social history in startling and unforeseen ways. Nearly all political powers in the region based their rule on the management and control of natural resources, and nearly all individuals were in constant communion with the natural world. To grasp how these multiple histories were central to the pasts of the Middle East and North Africa, the chapters in this book evidence the power of environmental history to open up new avenues of scholarly inquiry.

Excerpt

Alan Mikhail

Our understanding of the global history of the environment necessarily advances through the study of local situations—how local populations deal with large-scale environmental change; how market integration affects the ecologies of specific locales; and how the movement of peoples, commodities, ideas, and microbes impacts areas far from their original homes. One of the gaping holes in the global story of the environment thus far has been the history of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Likewise, one of the gaping holes in the study of the mena has been the history of its environment. Yet from antiquity—if not earlier—the region has been the crucial zone of connection between Europe, the Mediterranean, and Africa on the one hand, and East, Central, South, and Southeast Asia on the other. It was an arena of contact where European and South Asian merchants traveled and conducted commerce, and where religious pilgrims from Mali to Malaysia came each year not only to visit Mecca and Medina but also to buy goods in the many bazaars in cities throughout the mena. Pastoral nomads moved from Northern India and Central Asia through Iran and into Anatolia. Ships carrying goods, peoples, vermin, and ideas sailed from India, China, and Southeast Asia to ports on the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. Beginning in the late medieval and early modern periods, the world from the western Mediterranean to China was characterized by intense circulation, interconnection, and movement. All the threads of these connections ran through the mena, with important environmental implications.

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