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The Yellow River: A Natural and Unnatural History

Friday, December 16, 2022

This talk is part of the Yale University Press-Yale Center Beijing "Find Your Next Great Read" Series.

Event Time

December 16, 2022 | Friday
8:00 am - 9:00 am Eastern Standard Time
December 16, 2022 | Friday
9:00 pm - 10:00 pm China Standard Time

Participation Format

Registration is required to obtain a ZOOM Conference access link, which will be sent to your registration email or phone shortly. Please enter the ZOOM room 15 minutes before the starting time. When the room is full, latecomers will not be able to access the ZOOM conference.


Please click on“HERE” to register.Please send an email to if there are any problems.



The language of the event will be English.

The Event

From Neolithic times to the present day, the Yellow River and its watershed have both shaped and been shaped by human society. Using extensive documentary records combined with archaeological evidence and observations from environmental science to create data-informed maps and timelines, it is possible to trace the long-term effects of environmentally significant human activity on the Yellow River. This talk, based on Mostern’s 2021 book, The Yellow River: A Natural and Unnatural History, explains 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. This work, about patterns, transformations, and devastating ruptures throughout ecological history, also has implications about the way we continue to affect the natural systems upon which we depend.

The Speaker

Ruth Mostern
Professor of History, University of Pittsburgh
Director, the World History Center

Ruth Mostern is Professor of History and Director of the World History Center at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the author of two single-authored books: Dividing the Realm in Order to Govern: The Spatial Organization of the Song State, 960-1276 CE (Harvard Asia Center, 2011), and The Yellow River: A Natural and Unnatural History (Yale University Press, 2021). She is also co-editor of Placing Names: Enriching and Integrating Gazetteers (Indiana University Press, 2016), and of a special issue of Open Rivers Journal (2017). She is the author or co-author of over thirty articles published in books and peer reviewed journals. Ruth is Principal Investigator and Project Director of the World Historical Gazetteer, a prize-winning digital infrastructure platform for integrating databases of historical place name information. Her research has been funded by entities that include the US National Endowment for the Humanities, the US National Science Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and others. At present she is working on three distinct research projects: one about the history of climate, erosion, and settlement in northwest China; one about the global history of placemaking, and one about the limits of sustainability in the Anthropocene.

Public Event