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Peter B. Lavelle

Mar 22, 2022

The Profits of Nature

Colonial Development and the Quest for Resources in Nineteenth-Century China

Columbia University Press 2020

In The Profits of Nature: Colonial Development and the Quest for Resources in Nineteenth-Century China (Columbia UP, 2020), Peter Lavelle offers a fascinating narrative history of natural resource development in China during the tumultuous 19th-century. Faced with an unprecedented confluence of natural disasters, wars, rebellions, foreign incursions and social problems, Qing Dynasty officials and elites looked to the natural world as a source of wealth, security and power. Lavelle grounds his narrative in the life and career of Zuo Zongtang (1812-1885), who was an avid student of geography and agricultural sciences, in addition to being one the leading statesmen of his generation. In efforts to rebuild livelihoods, relieve demographic pressures, secure government revenues and expand control over borderland regions, Zuo and his contemporaries harnessed long-standing traditions of knowledge and established new connections between China's borderlands and its eastern regions. What emerges from The Profits of Nature is a fresh and richly detailed chapter in late Qing history, written through the nexus of crisis, Qing colonialism and the environment.

Zachary Lowell holds an MA in global studies from Humboldt-Universtität zu Berlin.

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Zachary Lowell

Zachary Lowell is a PhD candidate at University of Melbourne. He holds an MA in global studies from Humboldt-Universtität zu Berlin.
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