Brian LanderFeb 15, 2023
The King's Harvest
A Political Ecology of China from the First Farmers to the First Empire
Yale University Press 2022
The King's Harvest: A Political Ecology of China from the First Farmers to the First Empire (Yale UP, 2021) is a multidisciplinary study of the ecology of China's early political systems up to the fall of the first empire in 207 BCE. Brian Lander traces the formation of lowland North China's agricultural systems and the transformation of its plains from diverse forestland and steppes to farmland. He argues that the growth of states in ancient China, and elsewhere, was based on their ability to exploit the labor and resources of those who harnessed photosynthetic energy from domesticated plants and animals. Focusing on the state of Qin, Lander amalgamates abundant new scientific, archaeological, and excavated documentary sources to argue that the human domination of the central Yellow River region, and the rest of the planet, was made possible by the development of complex political structures that managed and expanded agroecosystems.
Brian Lander is assistant professor of history at Brown University and a fellow of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society.
Caleb Zakarin is the Assistant Editor of the New Books Network.